Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fat Cat and the Happy Mistake

I have three cats: two old black/whites that live mostly on the back porch and one fluffy little grey called Gris-gris, a name with voodoo connotations, meaning literally grey-grey (or in American, gray-gray).  While Doobey and Minx, the B&Ws, are strays, Gris-gris came to us at 6 weeks so we're answerable for all bad habits.  Her innocent face and pretty yellow eyes belied the devil within.  From a kitten, she tended to be spiteful, hissing and spitting at everything.  She'd as soon bite you as purr for you and if you stroked her, she'd probably do both, and you could lose a limb.  We were afraid of her. 

When she was 6, Gris-gris fell gravely ill.  She'd always been a bit on the plump side, a bit chubby, a bit curvy, but I noticed that her sweet tubby belly had grown strangely lopsided.  And what I thought at first was the hacking up of potential fur balls, a sound all cat-owners dread entailing as it does not only the swift tossing outside of the moggy in question but also the clearing up of vast pools of vomit and slimy fur, well, that hacking was serious coughing.  It became so regular and caused her such discomfort, we went to the vet.  X-rays revealed a giant growth on her lungs, an abscess so large that it hindered her breathing.  A specialist offered two options: a dangerous, expensive operation to remove the growth -- not recommended for Gris-gris who was so small and highly-strung, she probably wouldn't survive.  The second idea was huge doses of antibiotics in hopes of shrinking the abscess, and lots of TLC.  We chose the latter.  The vet held out little hope.

Oh, those antibiotics.  They made her dreadfully, violently ill, gave her diarrhea that crippled her. Some days she was so exhausted with its effects, she lay on the floor and whimpered.  At first, she fought like a demon not to take the drugs but in the end was so sick she had to relent.  The only "benefit" was that in her convalescence she became gentler, sweeter and more loving, a temperament which lasts to this day.  When finally she began to feel better, she'd play (which she'd never really done before) sometimes for 15 minutes at a time, jumping in the air and racing around the room. The coughing lessened and eventually her belly got smaller.  We were encouraged. 

We gave her two drugs, a red bottle and a blue bottle.  After the final drop, we returned to the vet, only to learn we'd made an awful mistake. The packaging was different but the two bottles contained the same very potent medication.  We'd given her twice the recommended dose.  Poor Gris-gris!  I was so upset on her behalf, I sobbed.  However, it turned out that the double-dose probably saved her.  The specialist had expected her to die.

Imagine my horror when I recently noticed Gris-gris's little belly start to swell and her energy to drop.  Suddenly she couldn't jump on to the kitchen counter.  Then she was so weak she could barely heave herself on to my bed.  She's 11 now; bad news.  She wasn't happy about a vet visit: "I ain't goin' to no vet!" she howled in her Texas accent.  She spreadeagled her fluffy, porculent body in the door-frame of the pet carrier while at the same time trying to scratch out my eyes.  Nevertheless we squeezed her in and handed her over to the vet.

The diagnosis?  She's a portly puss; a heavy-weight chubster; a lard-bucket.  So, thankfully, my worst fears were not confirmed but my second-worst were.  Gris-gris is FAT!  "I'm not fat," she says, "I'm small-boned.  I'm pleasingly plump!" but this is not true.  Gris-gris tipped the scale at 12.9 lbs which is way, way, WAY beyond pleasingly plump.

Gone are the days of stealing from her elderly housemates' food bowls and cadging scraps with those winsome good looks.  Gris-gris, the happy, healthy, FAT CAT is on a diet.

Monday, April 9, 2012

An Easter to Remember

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, April 8.  Five years ago, Easter Sunday also fell on April 8.  I know because it was the day my mother died. 

If you've been reading this blog, you know I'm wading through 30 years' worth of correspondence from my mum.  She even wrote when I was on a school-sponsored Mediterranean cruise.  I was 14 and it was the treat of my young life costing GBP 65, a small fortune which took Mum 6 months to pay.  Thus, to celebrate my lovely Mum, and acknowledge mothers everywhere for their many sacrifices, here's that 40 year-old letter.  Not sure what everything means but I've put my ideas in brackets.

To Miss B. Nason
Burton Dormitory
SS "Uganda" Cruise 255
c/o W. Morphy & Son
Evep Building
Navarinou Street
Piraeus GREECE

28th October 1971

Dear Bernie,

This is the first letter I have ever written to you and with two days' news from Winchester, you can imagine with what excitement I put pen to paper.  Quite right!  None at all.  Absolutely nothing has happened.

As far I am concerned, my class has just made kaleidoscopes, not one of which works.  I never expected them to do so anyway.  Your sister is in a seventh heaven with her first ballet lesson tonight but don't spread it about as she's a bit embarrassed about it.  She is getting her kit from her bank (birthday) money.  Your brother thinks he may pass his m/c (motorcycle?) exam after all, because, as he says, he's so great.

That's a very rude magazine you've been hogging to yourself upstairs.  (Cosmopolitan?)  I had a good look at it the other night.  I suppose it isn't the school mag?

I'll ask someone in Elm Road to run screaming (naked, of course) through the streets to give you a bit of news for next time.

Love, Mum

Friday, April 6, 2012

God Bless Snail Mail!

The post office may be closed for Good Friday but that doesn't mean I won't be reading witty snail mail from my family today, for today is the day I start writing DINNER IN DUBAI and I'm blessed that my mother kept all my mail from my time there.  When she died and we cleared our family home in Winchester, England, I found my letters carefully preserved in their airmail envelopes from 1987 when I arrived in Tripoli until her death in 2007.  That's 30 years' worth!  Now, Mum wrote to me every single week without fail and I kept those letters so when I've slotted everything together it will form a diary the likes of which can only be called a blessing when trying to regurgitate half a life-time of memories.  Since I enjoyed numerous white-wine spritzers during my 5 years in Dubai, my memory has been seriously diminished.  I'm hoping this "journal" will tell me what happened, when, where and maybe even why.

Interestingly, and rather sadly, my dad also kept all my letters - and those of my siblings - from the day he left home (sis was 4, I was 5 and bro was 7) until we were teenagers, when we gave up and stopped writing.  At his death, we cleared his tiny Somerset cottage and found a suitcase under his bed containing all our heart-breaking letters begging him to come home.  But that's another story.

Today is about the Persian Gulf.  I've also unearthed my Dubai photo albums and as I surround myself with all this nostalgia, I'm moved to ask -- in the age of emails, Facebook and other intangible forms of communication, will this kind of pleasure -- this delicious melancholia -- be available to our children and grandchildren?  Hm.  There's a thought.

And here's another: if my mother wrote to me every-single-week-without-fail for 30 years, that's 30 x 52!  Really?  There are 1,560 letters in these boxes?  Flippin' heck!  I'll have to count them as I read them.  Watch this space...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

14 Meetings

On 3 April 2011, I left Chevy Chase MD for Austin TX, the first leg of a 1,520 mile return drive, after a 4-week reconnaissance to Washington DC in search of a new life. I had 14 meetings in DC, VA and MD with theatre managers, artistic directors, arts' organizers, actors, writers, and storytellers.  I attended a storytelling conference, performed a few gigs and was offered others, should I return.  I visited old friends, made new ones.  There were 3 considerations, (a) weather, (b) career potential, (c) cost of living.  I could live with the cold, and there were work opportunities even for an old bag like me as long as I moved there first.  And there it was: "as long as I moved there first," bringing us to the cost of living.  I couldn't afford a small apartment for 6 months without cashing in my itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, yellow polka dot IRA.

Should I "go wild," sell my house and possessions, leave all the friends I've made in the past 19 years and make a fresh start in a capital city?  Wait a minute...didn't I do that at 22 when I moved to London?  At 26 when I moved to Tripoli?  At 30 to Dubai?  At 35 to Austin?  Did I really want to do it again at 54?

Through Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and then Texas -- from full-length wool coat/mittens to cotton frock/sandals --  pondering, contemplating, cogitating (she's at the Thesaurus again).  Then it dawned on me.  Why not have 14 meetings in Austin?  How long was it since I'd kick-started my life in Austin, a city I love?  Could I re-shape and re-vitalize what I already had?  If I could promote myself in a place where I'm nobody, couldn't I do it where I'm not completely unknown?  What was stopping me?  Could it be... FEAR?

Hey!  Perhaps I'd been spouting the truth after all: "Wherever you go, there you are."  Could I be the best of me right where I am?  Hm.  I arranged 14 meetings, actually 13 + 1 swim at Barton Springs (this is Austin, y'all).  By December 2011, I'd run bar/box office for a favorite theatre company, learned an American dialect and a new acting style for another I'd longed to work with; written/produced/performed my own show; adapted/produced/performed a second; even received a few nominations.  No bragging here; I made mistakes, lost LOTS of money, and often looked a fool but lessons were learned.  I might be proving something I always believed but for which I needed hard evidence.  You don't have to run away to the other side of the world to get a different perspective.  You can just sit in a different chair at a different window on the other side of the house.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

White Rabbit, White Rabbit, White Rabbit

I've been saying, "White rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit" first thing on the first day of every month since I was tiny. According to my lovely mum, mentioning white rabbits x 3 first thing on the first day of the month brings good luck for the rest of the month. There's a long list of variations (some folks simply say, "Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit") but that was how we did it.

As a child, staying up until midnight to say the rabbits "first thing" was something of an adventure, not as exciting as a birthday or Christmas or even Guy Fawkes Night but still a bit of a thrill. More often than not though, I'd go to bed at a normal time with the reminder, before turning off the light, "Don't forget 'White Rabbit' in the morning." It has to be the first thing, you see, or it doesn't work. Sometimes, Mum would wake me at the crack of dawn and before I had a chance to mumble, "Is it morning?" or "What day is it?" or "Why are you waking me so EARLY?!" she'd put her finger on her lips, "Shhh..." and mime, "White rabbit" so I could say it out loud before going about my busy day: climbing trees, starting clubs, diminishing my sister's confidence to put her in therapy for life.

I got in late last night from a swell gig sharing the bill at the Bastrop Celtic Festival Grand Finale with the wonderful Ed Miller. Name-dropping? You bet your life! Check out his shows "Across the Water" and "Folkways" on Being that it was March 31 and so close to midnight, it was surely best to hang on 'til the witching hour. Now, was it a mistake to enjoy a martini (3 olives)? Perhaps. Because the next thing I knew, the clock said 12:30 a.m. or, depending on your frame of reference, "You missed it, sucker!" Good luck for a month versus a martini? Oh Life, what a precarious, problematic balancing act you present.

Picture found online without credit. Thanks to the picture owner.