Packing, Selling and Packing

We’ve now reached the point where sold (or packed/disassembled) household items are no longer the ‘fat’ of our lives, but some ‘muscle’. In other words, stuff that we actually used day to day is now either unavailable or gone. I can still cook dinner (fewer pots) and connect to the Internet (laptop), so I’m OK, but things sure feel different.

Yesterday the Microwave cart and TV (and components) each went to their respective purchasers. Today we took apart my office desk, and the desktop computer, screen, peripherals and other attachments also had to be taken apart so they could be moved of it. It took a long time and we had to clean a lot of accumulated dust, fur and sticky residue. Everything in this house eventually gets a bit of a sticky film over time, probably from cooking food. It’s funny (and a little sad) to see remnants of Socrates (and perhaps even his sister Steffi, although she’s been gone for much longer) show up as little hairs and balls of dusty fur in the corners of furniture and at the bottom of table legs. Socrates loved to lounge on my desk while I worked, and left much of himself in the seams over the years. Those cats lived their entire lives in this house, and when we leave, it won’t be just memories of them we leave behind, but lots of genetic material. Probably not enough to clone a cat from, but certainly enough to make any person with a cat allergy react. I hope the new tenant is not allergic to cats.

There are boxes everywhere, in every room. The bedroom is flanked by large garment boxes. The room that I used to call my office consists now mainly of small boxes and scattered computer and peripherals. The first floor is dominated by a pile of boxes and other items where the piano used to be. It’s a good thing, too. In 19 days, the truck pulls up and the movers load all of those boxes. In the meantime, I’m also packing for our trip to France. Probably won’t be able to blog from there, but I’ll update when we get back, for sure.

Trip Wrap-Up

We’re back in Boston, after what I think was a kind of watershed trip.

As Pam noted, we were in a bit of funk before we left. We were focused on the absence of Socrates, and this in turn led us to contemplate the past. This trip to Vancouver helped us make more of a clean break. Instead of dwelling on ‘He used to hang out here’ or ‘Now was the time when he’d usually make a cute noise or sit on your mousing arm.’ it was ‘Here’s where we might live’ or ‘There is where you might work’. We thought about what we’ll be doing in a few months, or what we might need to do a few years down the road. We tried to imagine ourselves in a new house, in a new job, in a new country. My friend Andy calls it a ‘Life Mulligan’. I didn’t understand the term at first, but he explained that a Mulligan is a term from golf, meaning essentially a ‘do-over’. You get them in a polite game. I suspect it’s named after some desperately bad golfer who always asked if he could retake his drives or putts.

(Hah! I just found it on About.com and it’s apparently a Canadian term. According to one of the many mysterious etymologies of the term, a prominent hotelier named David Mulligan (sic) ‘frequented St. Lambert Country Club in Montreal, Quebec, during the 1920s. Mulligan let it rip off the tee one day, wasn’t happy with the results, re-teed, and hit again. According to the story, he called it a “correction shot,” but his partners thought a better name was needed and christened it a “mulligan.” Perhaps because Mr. Mulligan was a prominent businessman – owning multiple hotels – the term was more likely to catch on.’ At any rate, I like that theory, especially since the guy is both a David and a Canadian.)

Anyway, Life Do-Over or not, we definitely seem to be restarting, and this trip made the Restarting line seem a bit closer and clearer. We walked the city of Vancouver several times, took the Skytrain way out into the ‘burbs and back again in a big loop. We walked in parks, over the Granville Bridge (much to my discomfort, as I still do not like walking near the edge of precipitous areas like bridge sidewalks), and to many places we would like to frequent (the Public Library, the Symphony Hall, the Sea Wall – that last one by Pam alone). We looked at potential condominiums, watched for apartment rental signs, read newspapers, watched some local TV and listened to CBC radio. We bought food at local groceries, produce stands and bakeries.

As for me, I hustled, schmoozed and did my best to learn about the local business scene, signing up with 2 recruiters, and already interviewing with 2 local businesses. My experiences were nearly all encouraging. I have a strong resume, lots of great experience, and I just have to work on how I present my portfolio (a little rusty at that, I must admit). I found most people polite, interesting to talk to, and curious about why a person from Boston would want to relocate to little-old Vancouver, which does have a bit of a self-image of being a backwater economically. If this is true, I’m hoping that the ‘bigger fish in a smaller pond’ metaphor does hold true, and I’ll be able to make a name for myself there.

Frankly, given that the culture is so rich with so many immigrants (tons of people from China and India), the climate is so mild, the vistas so breathtaking, the local government enlightened and the populace tolerant, it’s only a matter of time before the world begins to notice that this is one of the best places in the world in which to reside. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure I’ll miss Boston a lot, but with it’s political infighting, frigid winters, rudeness, obsession with the Colonial past and theme park exploitation of it’s own heritage, not to mention the abominations of Logan Airport, the Hynes Convention Center and Government Center (ick, yuck and yech! respectively), I’m going to have to say that it’s time for me to check out some new places.

A thought just came to me. At Pam’s and my wedding, some of Pam’s Aunts came over to us after the reception/luncheon, where we served Vichysoise, Poached Salmon withe some assorted sauces, raspberry coulis, and Praline cake for a wedding cake. They exclaimed how they had never eaten anything like that before. In fact, I learned that one of them had rarely ventured outside her 10-mile radius of Quincy. OK. Time to go now.

written while listening to: Strauss – Vier Letzte Lieder – i. Frühling from the album “Strauss: Vier Letzte Lieder” by Jessye Norman, soprano, The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Kurt Masur

Socrates

In my last entry I was afraid that I would be writing a eulogy soon for my cat Socrates. Sadly, this is the case.

We had to put Socrates to sleep yesterday. The growth that was obstructing his lower intestine was technically operable, but the operation would have involved some difficult and painful surgery, including breaking the poor animal’s pelvis in order to get at whatever was there. After much painful deliberation (especially because the seemingly normal cat we were visiting for the last time didn’t seem to be in any pain – yet), we decided that it would be cruel to put him through a procedure that would be challenging for a healthy young cat, and more importantly, would leave him with poor urinary function. With his poor heart and kidneys, he might not even have survived the operation.

Socrates was one of two cats that we got from a neighborhood litter shortly before we moved into our house. The litter parents brought the whole litter over to our house so that we could choose among them. One little cat snuggled on my knee, where he stayed for nearly the whole visit. The other cat (who would be called Steffi after one of Pam’s relatives) was chosen mainly because she seemed to be his playmate.

I liked to name cats with S’s in their names because I had heard that their hearing is well-attuned to the hissing of the ‘S’. As I said the previous entry, we really should have called him ‘Francis’ like the Saint, and his chattering sounds at the birds were a real delight to Pam.

While Steffi was a typical cat, aloof, quick to use her claws and fiercely loyal to us (and distrustful of strangers) Socrates was anything but that. As a neighbor (and sometimes cat-sitter) once put it: That cat’s a dog! Outgoing and vocal, Socrates was a constant companion to Pam and me, seeing us through good times and bad. When his sister died in 2001, he helped comfort us, and adjusted to being an ‘only child’ surprisingly well. He did give us a couple scares, and perhaps even lost one of his nine lives the time that he ended up under the floor for about 3 hours (in dreadful 90-degree heat) in the heating/air conditioning ductwork when a careless installer left the opening in the utility room uncovered. He was our soft, purring partner on the sofa for countless movies and episodes of ‘The Sopranos’, and never seemed to scold us when we returned from trips. He came down the stairs every day (again, like a dog), when I came home from work. Toward the end, we had to start calling him ‘Limpy’, because our poor arthritic kitty was having trouble negotiating all of those flights. He did get picky and needy as he grew older, demanding that he get brushed by Pam after breakfast, and refusing to drink any water that wasn’t coming out of the bathtub tap.

His absence leaves a gaping hole in our lives, and our once-homey cocoon of a townhouse now feels, as Pam says ‘Like a Hotel Room’.

A last anecdote that sums it up:
At the animal hospital where he spent his final few days, he was pretty much normal, so on what turned out to be his last night alive, they had a ‘slow’ night. Since he was fine and they had time, they let him out to roam the waiting room and front desk area. I’m told that he was his usual charming and affectionate self, rubbing against all these strange people and purring. The tech said they all ‘bonded’ with him, and apparently there were many tears by the staff before we said our final good-byes. As I always said, he was the cat that everybody loved, even if they didn’t like cats.

So, to my little buddy, my little gray friend, muffin-head, bright-eyes, button, you’ll always be the cat who loved me back, not just as another acquaintance, but as a special friend, and that I’ll always cherish.

Sick Kitty

Although I haven’t mentioned him much in this blog, We have a cat with the historically but not personality-wise accurate name of Socrates. Socrates is not a philosopher-cat, and in retrospect, the proper name for him should have been Francis, as in St. Francis of Assisi, who was known to preach to the birds (and other animals). Socrates (the cat) talks to the birds, making that funny chattering noise that monkeys do.

Not today, though. Yesterday, our old friend of 13 1/2 years started crying and trying to use his litter box at 5:00 AM, and then every 15 minutes or so with no success. Without giving a complete medical history, he’s showing many of the signs of being an senior feline. He’s got a slightly irregular heart-beat, shrinking kidneys, and needs to drink water a great deal. He now only drinks water from the bathtub tap – a lab tech at the vet suggested that this is an instinctual preference for running water because in the wild waterfalls and brooks are usually cleaner and safer, hence more attractive to animals as they age and don’t have the resistance to the microbes in standing water. While I’ve never seen this in print, it makes a heck of a lot of sense. This need for so much water (probably due to not only the kidneys, but some mild diabetes) has an associated problem; when the body can’t get enough water externally, it begins to draw it from internal sources, like the colon. This contributes to (without mincing any words) hard stools. Combine this with less muscle tone, and our poor kitty can’t get his waste out of him. Add to this some swelling back there, and, well, you get the picture. Poor Socrates threw up all of his breakfast, and we took him to the vet about mid-morning. Then, after it wasn’t clear from X-rays what was exactly going on, he was going to need to be sedated for ultrasound, but the vet was closing at 4. On to the animal hospital, where Socrates’s sister Steffi spent her last hours back in 2001 (oh what a great year that was…).

Which brings us to today. He’s still there, and we’re going to visit him from 1 to 3. He’s going to be at the hospital overnight tonight as well, and hopefully ultrasound tomorrow (as well as multiple enemas – poor thing!) will tell us what to do next. I hope that I don’t have to prepare a eulogy for my little friend so soon, but I have to say that I have it in the back of my mind. I’ll stop now before I get more into that.