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.

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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 have a *click click* ssssssssss-steam leak.

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While we were on vacation our apartment was left unattended from 18 December to 11 January.  (Sorry, burglers.  Even if I had told you this before the fact, there really wasn’t much in there to satisfy.)

This was the longest stretch it had been sitting empty in, like, forever.  As least in the four years I’ve lived there.  Needless to say, I was a bit concerned.  Not I’m-going-to-set-up-a-nanny-cam-to-make-sure-everything-is-ok-everyday concerned, but at least I-think-about-it-every-so-often-and-hope-everything-is-ok concerned.

I had left a card for our superintendent (complete with Christmas tip) and let him know we were going to be out of town for that stretch of time, asking him to keep an eye on things and grab our mail if it overflowed.  All seemed well.

The vacation happened.

We come back home (after an exhausting day of traveling, much of which was delayed) at 2am.  We open the door to our apartment and there, in the middle of the kitchen floor, is our window A/C unit.  That was IN the window when we left.  There is the Christmas tree, star akimbo, wearing only half our ornaments.  The rest are on the ground in various pieces.  Curious.

We put down our bags and investigate.  There is no sign of forced entry.  There’s nothing stolen.  There’s nothing broken.  Everything in the apartment is a little sticky.  Everything in the apartment looks like it got wet.  The floors are sticky.  The walls are streaked.  The dishes look like they had dirty water in them at one point.

“There must have been a leak,” we say.  “But why is the A/C moved?  Why did the tree obviously fall?  And why is it not messy?”  One would assume that, if there was a leak, things would be much dirtier and disgusting than they are.  Especially since someone obviously came into our apartment to do something (in theory, fix the leak).  And where did the leak come from?  There’s no origin point in the ceiling or anything.

Confused, we went to bed.

The next day was Sunday, so I couldn’t talk to the super.  It’s his day off.  We cleaned instead.  All the stickiness.  All the warped books.  All the streaks on the walls.  It was so weird.  We couldn’t even ask our cat what had happened because we took her with us!

When I finally caught up with my super, I got the story.  And it all makes sense:

During the deepfreeze that hit the east coast, the heat was cranked up.  We have radiator heat.  The force from the steam must have been so powerful that it popped the cap off the radiator.  Steam billowed into the apartment (for how long, who knows? A day? A week? I shudder at the thought.)  A neighbor saw the steam and thought it was smoke.  They called 911.  The fire department came.  My super couldn’t find the keys to our apartment.  The fire department climbed up the fire escape, busted the A/C out of the window, knocking over the Christmas tree right in front of the window.  

They came in and did whatever needed to happen to fix the radiator, but the place was still moist.  I imagine it was rather like a steam room.  The super and fire department left, closing the door behind them.  The steam could not escape.  Now that it was cooling down in the apartment, it turned to liquid and rained down from the ceiling over everything.  And then we came home at 2am on the 12th of January befuddled to no end.

Thankfully, nothing was damaged, no claims need to be filed.  Some of our books have warped covers, but that’s pretty much it.  Our Fosse-esque steam leak (it’s not really Fosse-esque unless you describe it like this post’s title, but that’s ok) was minor.  All’s well.

Now we just have to keep our eye out for mold!

Good to be home!!  🙂

Sometimes it’s a Wednesday matinee

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As you may or may not know, Wednesday matinees in the theatre world are the preferential performance for those above seventy years old to attend.
The confluence of three hundred bodies on their way out of this world is something to behold.
This proves for memorable (and ridiculous) conversations for me, whose job it is to deal with them.

Here is one such conversation. Everything below is 100% true. Nothing has been falsified for effect. I’ll set the stage, as it were:
The show is going. We’re about a half-hour in.
I hear a cellphone ring. The ringtone is MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.”
I begin my survey of the audience. Where is it coming from? Is anyone reaching to turn it off?
I follow the sound to the center of the back row. Easy. It’s one of two white-haired people. They look to be a couple, so I kneel behind them and speak to them both.
Me: Please turn off your cell phone.
Man (loudly): What?!
Me: Please turn off your cell phone.
Woman: He doesn’t have a cell phone.
Me: Then please turn off your cell phone.
Woman: My cell phone’s not on.
Me: I hear a cell phone ring coming from your purse. (on her lap)
Woman: That’s not my cell phone.
Me: Ma’am, it’s coming from your purse. I see the light and can see it vibrating. (it was even jingling the clasp on the purse)
Woman: You’re wrong. That’s not my ring.
Man: I’m trying to watch the show! Be quiet!
Woman: Don’t yell at me – your phone is on!
Man: I don’t have a cell phone!
Woman: Oh right. Well, it’s not mine.
(the cell phone ring ends and starts up again – still MC Hammer)
Me: Ma’am, turn off your cell phone.
Woman: That’s not my phone! I don’t have a young person song as my ring!
Me: Ma’am, please could you check to make sure?
Woman: This is ludicrous! You’re bothering my husband with all this.
Me: Please just check.
Woman: Alright, if you want to look a fool. (Takes the phone from her purse. It is vibrating lighting up, and playing MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This”)
Me: Please turn it off, Ma’am.
Woman: Someone changed my ring! I don’t even know this song! I turned my phone off when I sat down!
Me: Please turn it off, Ma’am.

This is my job.

Sometimes you list all the things that this post isn’t about. Like community theatre, Hershey Park, Frances Ha, hiking on the Hudson River, hating interpersonal communication with strangers, and loving your family to death.

This post is not about any of these things:

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1. I took a trip home to small-town America to watch a community theatre production of THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE that featured several friends and family members.  It was a ridiculously good time and the show was super fun.  Also I learned how to spell “floxinoxinihilipilification.”  For all those times I need to remember how to spell it.

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2. During said trip to small-town America we spent a day in Hershey Park, where I have gone almost every summer of my entire life to ride roller coasters and eat chocolate in the Sweetest Place On Earth.  It rained thrice during the day, but only for about fifteen minutes each time, so by the end of the day everyone had been scared away and we had the run of the place.  I think the best way to experience roller coasters is to walk off them and walk back on three times in a row.

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3. The trip to Hershey Park included admission to ZooAmerica, which only has animals that exist in North America.  (So really – only animals you can already see outside your back door.)  But my brothers are fun.  We were bears.  Which is helpful.  When you need to be bears.

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4. I saw FRANCES HA last night.  It was quite good.  I’m totally on board with this burgeoning genre of showing how awful and terrible and wonderful and frightened and crazy and ridiculous and amazing young people actually are as they haphazardly make their way through their poverty-stricken twenties.  Good on you, Lena Dunham.  Good on you, Greta Gerwig.

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5. My girlfriend and I went on a kick-ass hike today.  North of the city is Mount Taurus in the Hudson Highlands region.  1400 feet elevation, 7.5 miles roundtrip.  Sometimes more rock-climbing than hiking.  Gorgeous views.  Also the ruins of an early twentieth-century estate by a former president of the National Lead Company (which sounds like a super fun job, by the way).  So that was amazing, completely un-ironically.

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6. I learned (or rather, verified) that I hate communicating with other hikers as they walk past me.  No sir, I do not want to discuss the difficulty of the trail.  I do not want to speak about the weather.  I left the city to get away from people.  Let me live in my I’m-living-two-hundred-years-ago-and-there’s-only-deer-and-badgers-and-raccoon-and-slugs-and-birds-and-squirrels-and-newts-hiding-behind-all-that-nature fantasy.  

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7. Apparently my family went hiking today too.  Because they’re awesome and we all think alike.  We were hike buddies from two hundred miles apart.  I love them.

8. Also, this post is 100% NOT about how sometimes you just can’t think of enough about one subject for a weblog post, so you just detail several things that come into your head.  Not at all.

Instead, this post is about Independence Day.
Happy Fourth of July everyone.  🙂

Sometimes being a Sergeant in the Army is exactly like being a zookeeper.

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I’m a medic in the Army National Guard.  It’s a great part-time gig, I have no more student debt, and I have an exorbitant amount of interesting life stories.  Plus, now I’m a nationally-certified EMT, which is a fun random thing that I never thought I would ever say about myself.  So, all good things.

About a year ago I was promoted to Sergeant, which means – for the layman – that I get paid a little more money for a lot more work.
Also it means I’m in charge of other people.  Oy.

There are few other jobs in the world that can compare to this, a member of the Non-Commissioned Officers Corps, the “Backbone of the Army.”  Except for maybe Zookeeper.
Why, you ask??

  1. You are given charge over a certain amount of living creatures (i.e. Privates).
  2. You have to feed and water your charges three times a day, because they never remember to do it themselves.
  3. You have to herd them where you want them to go, which is no easy task because most of them like to keep pace with their pet snail.
  4. Once they’re where they need to be, you have to keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t wander off, which they often do. (Anything shiny is highly distracting.)
  5. If they wander off, you have to go get them, which makes you late for something you personally need to do.  (Yes, you have tasks as well – your entire life is not nannying.)
  6. Once they’re back, you have to scold them and punish them so they don’t do it again.  (After which, they will hate you.)
  7. When they do it again, see steps four and five.  Repeat as many times as necessary.
  8. You have to teach them tricks like saluting and standing quietly in formation without pulling out their cell phones and texting their boyfriend.  (And shaking hands and rolling over and playing dead for treats.)
  9. You have to keep them from interacting too much with the general public.  They might very well frighten small children.
  10. You have to take responsibility for anything they do wrong, and you’re the one who’s punished, because you’re the one in charge.  After all, they don’t know any better…  Right?

Finally, you have to train them to one day take over your position.  I can only hope that I’ll be gone when that day comes – the idea of the animals running the zoo is a little unsettling.

Sometimes you walk past a dead body on the banks of the Hudson.

At 9:15am today I saw the new Star Trek at Lincoln Square.  At 1:00pm I saw Belvedere Castle as I walked north through the park.  At 2:45pm I saw Memorial Day picnickers when I transferred to the Greenway.

And at 3:05pm I saw a dead body in a bag.

The scene was idyllic:  a lovely sunlit path by the Hudson’s waters, cyclists in family groups laughing at inside jokes, and a light breeze rustling the leaves in the maples.

And two police cars.  And three policemen.  And a slew of purple medical exam gloves tossed haphazardly to one side.  And a large black garbage bag with a slightly swollen foot sticking out.

Ah, and yes – the breeze that was rustling the leaves brought with it a fragrance too fine to put into mere words.  A fragrance that yielded a lush bouquet of various bodily functions and sun-ripened processes, all having matured while marinating in the green-grey waters of the Hudson Valley.

Who was the owner of this water-logged hairy leg, I wondered.  Some poor kayaker bashed against the shoals upstream?  A jilted lover who had had enough of the world?  A drug deal gone awry?

Later, as I reflected upon this event, I was reminded of a time when I had thought I would see another dead body mere inches from me.  Journey with me into the past…

The year was 2011.  Barack Obama was the president.  The world had not yet been introduced to the Internet memes of Lil’ Bub or Grumpy Cat.

I was working (as I still do today) as an Assistant House Manager at Second Stage Theatre, a job that allows me the opportunity to witness the inner soul of humanity on a daily basis and run screaming in the opposite direction.

It was a Wednesday matinee, and we had a school group coming in:  High school.  Inner city.  Tough kids.

I was upstairs in the theater, watching the audience take their seats, when I heard Jenny the ticket-taker’s voice over the headset (it’s in a Welsh accent, P.S.): “Artie, we need you downstairs right now!  Medical emergency!”

Now, for those of you who may not be aware, I’ve served as a medic in the New York Army National Guard for a few years.  Nothing too crazy or outlandish, but I have my EMT certification and a basic skill set for helping those who are in immediate need of medical attention.  Although I have this certification, however, I’ve never really had to use it.  Sure, I’ve given the Heimlich a couple of times, and I treat minor burns, bumps, bruises, and bellyaches when playing Army, but no “real-world” experience, per se.

So you can imagine my total soul-crushing fear upon hearing those words being screamed at me through a two-way radio.  Suddenly I was the one who was responsible for whatever was going to happen.  Suddenly I was the one who was supposed to do something.

My first thought as I ran down the stairs was that it was one of our subscribers.  Bless their little hearts, most of them are geriatric timebombs waiting for the one day that something doesn’t go quite right so they can leave us all behind.  In my head, I went over the steps for CPR: “30 compressions at 100 per minute, two breaths, check pulse.  Or is it two breaths, then compressions?  Or is it pulse?”  I got out my phone from my pocket, holding it at the ready, waiting to hand it off to somebody and shout “Call 911!” in their face.

When I reached the lobby, I scanned the area.  I saw no dead body, so that made me feel a little better.  (Although, let’s be honest – if someone’s already dead, there’s nothing I can do so there’s a lot of pressure that’s taken off my shoulders.)  I saw no blood.  I saw no guts.  In fact, nothing seemed out of place.  There was very little in the way of audience activity down there, as most were already up in their seats.  I spotted Jenny and sprinted to her side.  With a sigh of relief, she directed me to a young man by the front doors.

“He says he feels like he’s going to die,” she told me with a slight tremor of fear.  Then she quietly resumed her tearing of the tickets, reminding audience members to please turn of their cellphones.  I ran to the boy, which didn’t take long because he was only two steps away.

He was definitely from the high school, as he couldn’t have been more than sixteen years old.  He was thin and gawky – as high school boys are – and was showcasing his fly fashion sense by allowing his beltloops to droop down to about the lower-thigh region of his leg.  His arms were crossed and he was pacing in circles by the box office window.  His eyes were wide and his head was shaking.

After greeting him and asking him how he was feeling, he responded with “I dunno man.  Something’s wrong.  Something’s wrong.”  Not to worry, young man.  I, proper medic that I was, went through a prescripted evaluation in the hopes of coming across his ailment.  He continued his pacing while I interrogated him.

When did you start to feel like this?  What exactly do you feel like?  Are you in any pain?  Have you ever felt this way before?  Would you feel more comfortable sitting down?

About halfway through, he apparently got tired of answering my questions.  Brusquely, he grabbed my arm and pulled me out onto the street. “Look,” he whispered. “Can you keep a secret?”

I responded with the ever-elusive “What is it you want to tell me?”

Nervously, the youngster looked around.  “I bought some brownies, man.  Across the street.  I think there’s something bad in them.  I think I’m dying.”

I nodded my head, solemnly.  “And where did you buy these brownies?”

“From a guy.”

“You know this guy?”

“My friend does.”

“Where’s your friend?”

“In the theater.”

“But he had some brownies too?”

“Yeah, and he’s fine.  So’s all the other guys who bought some.”

I continued to nod, ever the medical professional.  I put my phone back in my pocket.  I didn’t think I’d need it at the ready anymore.

“What was in the brownies?”

“Pot, man.  Weed.  But I don’t know.  I don’t think I’m supposed to feel so weird.”

“Have you ever had marijuana before?”

“No.”

“Have your friends?”

“Yeah, they’ve all smoked it before.  Said I should try it.”

“So you tried the brownies?”

“Yeah.  But now my body’s doing weird things and I don’t feel like I felt earlier.”

“Before you ate the brownie?”

“Yeah.”

“You feel different?”

“Yeah.”

“Not normal?”

“Yeah.”

“Hmm.”

“Also?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m really thirsty.”

I got his teacher’s information, and made the kid sit on a bench.  I radioed for them to send the teacher down.  I told the concerned woman what was going on.  She looked at me with incredulity.

“So he’s just high?”

“It appears so.  Yes.”

She punched the young man’s arm and laughed.

I recommended that she take him to the hospital if he really felt like he wanted to go, but that it would probably pass and all would be well.  And that the next time he ate a similarly-baked brownie, he would probably be a little calmer about the whole thing.  They remained in the lobby for the duration of the performance.

I saw him again once more – at another show.  Apparently his school comes to most of them.  He saw me and shook my hand in a very cool way that the white man I am dares not replicate.  “He talked me down,” he bragged to his friends.  “I was mad trippin’, yo!”

And then they entered the theater to witness the beauty of the spoken word.

I had to tell him and his punk friends three times to stop texting during the darn show.