Friday, February 20, 2009

It's Been a Rough Month for Tuxedo Kitties

The Clinton White House cat, Socks, was euthanized this morning in Maryland. He was probably about 20 years old, and had been suffering from cancer of the mouth and jaw for quite a while.

Given what happened to another tuxedo kitty earlier this month, ronniecat, I suggest that you enclose Veronica and Mojo in bubble-wrap until February is over.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"I'm Calling a Meeting. Bring Your Gas Mask."

Greg Germani is an Atlantan with a deep love for his city and its history. He came across some of my Dad's old photos of Atlanta from the 1950's and 60's that I had posted to Flickr, and was kind enough to post them to his remarkable website, the Atlanta Time Machine. (My mother was born in Atlanta, and we visited there frequently from New York State when I was growing up.)

Some time after Greg incorporated those photos into his website, I received an e-mail from Carey Waldrip, who graduated in 1956 from the Atlanta High School that was named after my maternal grandfather, J. C. Murphy. He had some very nice things to say about my grandfather, and noted that "[his] father ... sold WW II War Bonds with [my] grandfather, JC Murphy, during the war. JC was a fine citizen and city Alderman and deserved the high school to be named in his honor."

Carey later sent me this electronic copy of a form letter that J. C. Murphy had sent out in his capacity as Director of the East Atlanta District of Civilian Defense to all Wardens in his district (please click on the image to see a legible version):

Homeland Security, indeed. The fears were real; the steps were earnest, even in a place that today we envision as having been far from danger in that particular war.

And I love the afterthought. About the only thing that any meetings I've attended in academia have in common with the one my granddaddy called is the desirability of having a gas mask thereat.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Home Port

Voyage complete.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

More Snow and Ice Images: Forty-Seven Years Ago

Now that it has snowed even on coastal South Carolina, and now that the annual, ritual mocking of California softies has been chanted by our Canadian cousin, I feel obliged to point out that not all of us lotus-eaters have always been so unfamiliar with snow. In fact, some of my favorite memories are of my youthful experiences with the stuff, in Chenango County, New York, downwind of Buffalo, in the fulsome blast-path of lake effect snows.

They are "favorite" memories, of course, because they don't come with the sting of melted and re-frozen water in my jeans, or the bite of frozen snot on my upper lip. They just come with visuals, so they are greeted fondly.

Among the fondest are ones captured by my Dad's camera in February, 1962. We had a brief thaw, followed by a deep and quick freeze, which worked absolute frozen hell on the roads, which turned into ribbons of thick and slick ice. But it also worked magic on the streams and creeks in the county's glens. The brief thaw caused water to run over the rocks -- and through them, too, since most of the rocks there are shale and other sedimentaries with plentiful interstitial pathways for fine streams of water -- to trickle down toward creeks and streams. The quick plummet in temperature then froze that migration in time, producing frozen waterfalls, icy stalactites, and colorful walls of petrified water tinted by the minerals it had passed through on its way to temporary stasis.

The images below are from that event, and were taken by my Dad, Lynn Harrington. Many of them have shown up over on PicShers, my photo-a-day blog, but these are linked to much higher-resolution versions than the ones over there are. If you click on any of these images, you will be taken to Flickr, where you can view them at as high a resolution as you can stand (click on the "all sizes" magnifying glass right above the image to access other resolutions.)

A Day in February, 1962 (1 of 6)
In "Gorgeous Gorge," a little tributary to Thompson Creek. Our house was on the south side of the Thompson Creek Valley near Kings Settlement, New York, and this glen was directly across the valley, on its north side.

A Day in February, 1962 (2 of 6)
I carefully trudge between a frozen waterfall and a flash-frozen exposed pool. My walking stick is an inverted golf club, a putter if I recall correctly.

A Day in February, 1962 (3 of 6)
Natty Bumpo trudges over a perilous waterfall. Click here for what this idyllic place in the glen looked like in summer.

A Day in February, 1962 (4 of 6)
A pause in the upper part of the glen, looking south and downstream.

A Day in February, 1962 (5 of 6)
View from the high ridge above the glen, southward toward home. If you click on this image and view it in Flickr, you'll see a box toward the right of the frame; it indicates our little house on the south side of the Thompson Creek Valley.

A Day in February, 1962 (6 of 6)
After that little walk, Dad and I (and Mom, seen here in her white parka) gathered up some wood trimmings from around the property and had a little bonfire.

White Store, NY, February 1962 (1 of 2)
This photo was probably taken either the day before or the day after the above ones were. Dad's sisters Myrt and Mary lived in a hollow off the Unadilla Valley, one ridge to the east of our place off the Chenango Valley. Their house was next to a creek with a significantly deeper and more dramatic gorge than the one Dad and I walked. This image shows, dramatically, the effects of minerals and dirt entrained in the water's flow on the color of the flash-frozen curtains. (I am leaning gingerly against an ice face in the background, Mom is in her white parka again, and I think that's my cousin Marjie in the red coat.)

White Store, NY, February 1962 (2 of 2)
Waterfalls frozen in time and in fact.

(The remarkable ability of modern photo scanning technology to reconstruct images' color has made these views seem immediate, but they're not. To get a sense of how long ago they were taken, beyond the dry quantification of "47 years," consider this: Dads' sisters' house is about a hundred yards behind us from this photo's vantage point. Inside that house was a telephone, but that telephone couldn't be accessed the way we're used to. Its number was "South New Berlin 3-Y-5," which had to be spoken, not dialed or punched in, to a live operator, who would then physically cause the 'phone to ring by plugging a big connector into a hole in her switchboard and pressing a button to send current down the line, ringing all of the bells on the party line, but in a code of longs and shorts that indicated for whom the call was intended. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes the neighborhood busybody would pick up her 'phone instead.)


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oolie, 1995 - 2009

Raul, aka Oolie the Black Freighter

The smartest, most dominant cat I have shared a home with in the past 50 years died yesterday. How he went was the last, greatest demonstration of his strength and will.

Even at the relatively advanced age of 14, he was still sleek, strong, and massive -- and, at least in his mind, the dominant member of the pride. Diane and I can't remember him ever being sick, even with a sniffle.

But, two days ago, he just seemed to stop. He didn't eat all day, and, more ominous, didn't groom himself. When the lethargy continued into yesterday morning, we called the vet, and she wanted to see him as soon as possible in the afternoon.

When we arrived, she was noticeably concerned immediately with the tautness of his abdomen -- and by the fact that he hadn't fouled his carrier on the half-hour drive to her place. He always did that. She took him directly to x-ray.

You wouldn't have to be an expert to read the film. His lungs and abdomen were crowded with tumors. His lungs, particularly, were so full of them that I am astonished that he could still breathe. He was miserable, there clearly was no path to amelioration, so the vet gently ended it for him then. Like his friend Max before him, he exhaled his last breath against my wrist.

While his last general checkup in October showed nothing awry, the cancer must have been developing for quite a while. Toward the end, it must have been severely weakening and painful -- and yet he never showed any outward manifestation. Until it overwhelmed him two days ago, that is, and he just stopped. There was never any shortage of strength and will in that cat.

His portrait above (taken in 2005) makes him look fearsome and menacing, and I'm sure that's how he thought of himself most of the time. But his favorite pastime of all, for his entire life, was to rest on his back against a human chest, purring:

Diane and Oolie on a peaceful winter day. (Max is there, too, on a pillow at the top.)

Oolie disdained almost all of the other animals in Ft. Harrington, far preferring his own company most of the time, but he made exceptions. The most noteworthy exception was Max, the quirky gray Burmese, who was his lifelong buddy until Max died two years ago. Max was three years older than Oolie, and took to him right away on the summer day that we brought Oolie into our house in Sunnyvale. After Max disappeared from his life, Oolie seemed to become even further withdrawn from the four-footed society.

The temptation to say something treacly at this point is nearly overwhelming, so I'll just say that this is probably how I will remember Oolie most frequently, and leave it at that:

Oolie (left) and Max in Summer, 2003