My Week 231: A Tribute To A Lovely Floof

Sunshine kitty.

I’ve written a lot over the years about Raven, our little Persian cat. Unfortunately, she passed away last week at the age of 14. I went back over some old blogs and found this one, and I’ve revised it a little as a tribute to her. She was lovely and sweet, a bit of a diva, and we loved her very much..

June 6, 2015

I got home on Friday afternoon and Raven was sitting in the living room. She had her back to me, and refused to look at me.

Me: What’s wrong? I haven’t seen you all week and this is how you greet me?
Raven: I read your last blog.
Me: So? Didn’t you think it was funny?
Raven: Funny? FUNNY!? That’s the 4th time you’ve written extensively about that oaf Titus. You know what I get? POO. Every goddamn time, you talk about my poo. I’m fed up with it.
Me: Well, you poo a LOT. But I take your point.

So I feel compelled to write a little something about Raven. Which is hard, because, aside from the pooing and her keen literary analysis skills, like most older cats, she doesn’t actually do much (sorry, Raven, but you know it’s true. For example, you just spent 11 hours lying on the back of the chair in the living room). But she DOES have some tricks and little quirks that endear her to us:

She comes when you call her. Most of the time. Other times, she just looks at you like, “What?”

She will meow at you until you follow her, then she will lead you to the bathroom and let you know what she needs with a series of glances. The other day, she beckoned me forth, and when we arrived, she sat down in front of the litter box. She looked at me, then looked at the box dolefully. I looked at her. Then she looked at the box again and I realized it needed to be cleaned. Which I did, resulting in her promptly using it again WHILE I WAS IN THE ROOM. No sense of dignity, that one. She also does the same thing when her water or food bowl need to be replenished.

She will jump up onto your lap if you pat your knee, then jump down when you stand up. You don’t even have to say anything—she just GETS the force of gravity.

She likes to play this game where, when you walk behind her, she starts to run away from you like she thinks you’re chasing her. Even when you say, “I’m not chasing you—calm down!”, she still keeps playing.

She waits until you stand up from your chair then jumps into the warm spot. Then when you try to sit back down, she won’t move. You pretty much have to sit AROUND her, or perch on the edge of the seat to avoid squashing her, and then she taps you on the back so that you’ll reach around and pet her. In the winter, she likes to crawl under the covers, squeeze up right against you, and fall asleep purring, which is very soothing.

She refuses to go outside. You know how some cats lurk by the door and try to dart out any chance they get? Not Raven. Once, she accidentally wandered out onto the front porch when the door was left open. When I saw her, she was just sitting there looking confused and scared. Then she saw me and ran back INTO the house. Yep, definitely not a nature lover.

When I come home at the end of the week, the second she hears my voice, she starts meowing from wherever she is in the house, and runs to greet me. Then she stops just outside the kitchen to avoid being trampled by Titus, who is also very excited and most likely yelling, “This is the best day EVER!”, and she waits for me to pick her up and cuddle her.

I think her best trick, though, is that when she’s really happy to see you, not only does she purr, but she leans up and gives you little kisses on your face. I don’t mean licking—I mean little pecks with her muzzle that let you know that she loves you. And we love you too, you crazy, poopy cat.

RIP Raven. We’ll miss you.

Full coat, but she preferred being clipped.

Gord Downie: The Best of Us.

I NEVER post mid-week, but this week, I have to. Gord Downie, lead singer of the iconic Canadian band The Tragically Hip, is dead.  I am gutted. I suppose it was silly to believe that he would survive the type of brain cancer that he had, but I’m at heart an optimist, despite my consistent obsession with worst case scenarios. I’ve spent a good portion of this evening singing snatches of his songs, and crying. I may be a little drunk right now. Here is what I wrote a few months ago, at the Canada-wide broadcast of the Hip’s final tour:

Saturday Night: The Tragically Hip

hip2

Last night was the final show of The Tragically Hip’s final concert tour. The lead singer, Gord Downie, has incurable brain cancer, and rather than fade away, he’s going out in fine Canadian style by bringing the country together. You might have seen the memes about Canada being closed for the night because our national broadcaster, the CBC, was showing the concert live across the nation for those who couldn’t get tickets to be there in person. Free. No commercial breaks. 3 hours of song. So that we could all embrace the band whose music was the soundtrack to so many of our lives. Hundreds of thousands of people watching all at the same time, some at huge parties with massive screens, some at home with the people they love, watching a man give everything he had left to the nation HE loves. It was inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. It seems incredibly unfair that Gord Downie, man, machine, poem, will soon be lost to us, just when we need him most. And when the time comes, we’ll miss him fully and completely. Just wait and you’ll see.

Here’s the link to one of my favourite Hip songs—Nautical Disaster.

Gord Downie was the best of us. I have no more words.

My Week 127: Farewell to Mishima

A Farewell to a Good Fish

tweet

Last December, I went on a cruise. I brought back souvenirs for everyone, including Mishima. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that Mishima is the fish who lives on my kitchen counter. I can’t say “my” fish, because Mishima was certainly his own man—well, his own aquatic creature. He was a bit of a diva, and made some pretty outrageous claims about his combat skills, his romantic past, and had his own Twitter account, which he used occasionally to subtweet at me when his tank needed cleaning or he was mad at the cat. At any rate, I had picked up a really pretty seashell for his tank, and when I gave it to him, he looked pleased, but then his little face became concerned.

“What will happen to all my things when I die?” he asked.

“Kijiji,” I answered.

“No, seriously. I have some really beautiful things and I don’t want them going to some random stranger that you found on a Facebook Buy and Sell site. I want my nephew Oscar to have them. I need to make a will.”

Now, I was concerned. “Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “There’s nothing wrong with you. You survived that fall from the counter—I think you’re pretty indestructible. Besides, you’re only 5—that’s like middle-aged for a goldfish. Also, that might explain why you keep bugging me for a sportscar and trying to pick up young mermaids.”

“The ladies love me,” he said. “Stop trying to deny it. Now get a piece of paper and a pen and take this down. ‘I, Mishima Fishima, being of sound mind and body—why are you snickering?!”

“The ‘sound mind’ bit. We’ll agree to disagree on that. Carry on.”

“—do hereby bequeath all my worldly possessions to my nephew, Oscar Wildefish.”

“We should maybe list them. Just so we know what ‘worldly possessions’ we’re talking about here,” I said.

“Well, all my land—“

“You mean the gravel on the bottom of your tank?”

“Call it what you like. Also, my house and surrounding property, and my jewels. That big diamond has GOT to be worth a pretty penny. Also, don’t forget my social media holdings.”

“OK. So the pagoda, the fake palm tree, the glass beads from the dollar store, and your Twitter account. Gotcha.” So we drew up the will, and I tucked it away.

“How will I find Oscar Wildefish though?” I asked.

Mishima pondered for a moment. “You’ll just know. He’s flamboyant, and blue, and extremely witty.”

Then, two weekends ago, we changed the water in his tank, and when I looked at him swimming around in the bowl we used to keep him safe during the whole process, looking so tiny and vulnerable, I had a terrible feeling that I’d never see him again.

But then the moment quickly passed when he looked up and yelled, “Why are you staring at me? You’re giving me the creeps. Come on, hurry up. This water is cold—the shrinkage might scare off the mermaids!”

I shoved the feeling of impending sorrow into the back of my mind, and went back to Toronto on the train. Then, on the Tuesday morning, Ken texted me: “Mishima is just lying on the bottom of the tank and he hasn’t eaten his breakfast. I think he might be sick.”

I spent the whole day worrying and googling “How do I know if my goldfish is dying?” Then, after work, Ken called. We chatted about work and other things, then suddenly he said, “Oh by the way—the fish is dead.”

And I refuse to apologize for sobbing hysterically, for calling my mother and crying into the phone, and for yelling at Ken that he could have told me in a more gentle way, all over a fish. I was so upset that K actually called me—she hates talking on the phone, so you KNOW it was serious sh*t. Yes, Mishima was “just” a goldfish, and yes, I’m a grown woman, but Mishima and I had an understanding, a bond if you will. Plus, he was on the kitchen island right where I prepare dinner for 5 years, and I got used to having him around. From his complaints about fishflakes to his Twitter polls to his claims about ‘Nam, he was nothing if not entertaining. So here, as a tribute to a fine fish and friend, are some of his best moments.

poll

March 2016

Mishima goes on a road trip

On Thursday night, Ken called me.

Ken: I have to tell you something, but don’t worry—everything is OK.
Me: What?! What happened?
Ken: Titus and I went for a walk, and when we got back, Titus didn’t care about a cookie, which is COMPLETELY unlike him—he just kept trying to run into the kitchen. So I followed him in and he went straight over to where the toaster oven is. Mishima was lying there on the floor.
Me: Oh my god! What happened?
Ken: He was still breathing, so I scooped him up and put him back in his tank. After a minute, he started to swim around. His one fin looks a little iffy, but he seems OK otherwise.
Me: How the hell did he get down there? That’s like at least 5 feet away from his tank.
Ken: I don’t know. I suspected the cat, but she was upstairs sleeping on a chair.
Me: I’ll find out tomorrow when I come home.

I finally had a chance to ask the damn fish what he’d been up to. I was a little surprised at my reaction the night before because frankly, he can be quite the diva, and after 4 years, I still can’t convince him to stop telling people that he was in ‘Nam. Plus, he has way more followers on Twitter than I do. Still, he has a certain charm, and he keeps me company when I’m cooking (because his tank is on the kitchen island so he really has no choice).

Me: So what the hell were you doing the other night? You scared me to death.
Mishima: What are you talking about?
Me: Your little “road trip”?
Mishima: Oh that. I was trying to punch the cat in the throat using a special maneuver that I learned in the Marines. I overextended my reach and ended up sliding across the counter onto the floor.
Me: Stop pretending you were in the American military. For the last time, you’re a 4 year-old Canadian fish. Why were you trying to punch the cat in the throat?! You could have died.
Mishima: Ask her, the furry little hellion.  I’m not saying another word. Plus, I have a three second memory, so I’m not actually sure anymore.

I found Raven in her usual spot, curled up in a patch of sun on K’s bed.

Me: Explain yourself. What did you do to the fish?
Raven: I was thirsty. He got all pissy about me drinking out of his tank, and the next thing I know, he started yelling, “Hiyah! Hiyah!”, flew over my head and landed on the floor. What was I supposed to do?  Dial 911? I was laughing too hard.
Me: He could have died. Stop drinking out of his tank.
Raven: Fine. The water tastes like sh*t anyway.
Me: There’s a reason for that. Do you see a separate bathroom in there? Where do you THINK he goes?
Raven: I’d be more grossed out, but I lick my own ass, so…

rave

June 2016

I love fish. Not so much to eat—if given a choice, I’d much rather have steak—but as far as living organisms go, I’ve got a tremendous fondness for the wee, finned ones. We have 2 ponds on our property, both stocked with goldfish, and until recently, we had a pond at our cottage, also inhabited by over a dozen swimmers of all colour variations. And then, of course, there’s Mishima, who lives in a tank on the kitchen island. He’s a narcissistic diva, but over the last 4 years, we’ve come to an understanding. He doesn’t trash me on his Twitter feed (@tweetsoffish), and I feed him. It’s a deal that benefits him more than me, to be honest, because while he can be rather cutting, he is still just a fish, and his opinion of me is just about as compelling as Donald Trump congratulating Scotland on Brexit. Scotland responded exactly the way I do with Mishima, which is to roll my eyes and call him a “mangled apricot hellbeast” But Mishima doesn’t realize just how lucky he is, considering my actual track record of keeping fish alive…

December 2016

Well, if you looked up “weary traveller” in the dictionary, you would see my sunburned face and crazy hair, after the night I just spent trying to get home from the cruise I was on with my parents and my aunt, thanks to Delta Airlines, who have to be one of the most incompetent and weird airlines I’ve ever flown on. After a comedy of errors involving plane delays, transfers, flights into cities across America trying to get back to Canada during a snowstorm, lost luggage, closed border bridges, and freezing rain, I finally made it back home to the loving arms of my family (most of them), only to be greeted with this:

Mishima: You’re back. What the f*ck was THAT?
Me: Sigh. You’re mad about last week’s blog. I TOLD Ken to include you. This is NOT my fault.
Mishima: I am the linchpin that keeps this motley platoon together, and no one wants to get MY perspective on anything?! This is as bad as the day I said we should “go over the top” but nobody listened, and we were stuck in a trench for 3 weeks.
Me: Um…that’s not ringing any bells.
Mishima: Lest we forget, baby—lest we forget.
Me: You’ve completely lost me, which is not surprising. Anyway, I’m sorry about the blog, but it wasn’t my fault. I brought you back this cool seashell for your tank though.
Mishima: Is there a tiny mermaid trapped within it, and when I rub the shell, she’ll grant me three wishes?
Me: No. It’s just a seashell.
Mishima: You disappoint me once again, woman. And I’ll bet you can guess what the first wish would have been.
Me: So many options…

schoolpic

So farewell, Mishima. I’ll miss you. But I promise—the quest for Oscar has begun.

 

My Week 69: Ghost Stories, A Sudden Loss

On Wednesday, a group of us from work went to The Keg on Jarvis St. in Toronto to celebrate a colleague’s retirement. I love The Keg (a steakhouse chain for anyone who has never been there) for many reasons, but if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know it’s mostly because I believe that steak wrapped in bacon is nature’s perfect food, and The Keg always cooks it to perfection. Ken and I go to the local Keg on occasion, and of course, Ken always orders salmon. To me, this is like going to Red Lobster and ordering a hamburger. He had a terrible incident a few years ago, when restaurants had somehow all bizarrely decided that salmon should be cooked slightly rare. Because who doesn’t like to eat undercooked fish? What’s next? Medium rare chicken with a side of salmonella? Anyway, he got quite ill, so now he always asks for his salmon completely cooked, which seems weird that you actually have to specify that.

But I digress. Most Kegs are in fairly modern buildings with new fixtures and stone fireplaces—kind of ski chalet chic. But this particular restaurant on Jarvis St. is known as The Keg Mansion—it’s an enormous and beautiful castle-like structure built by members of the McMaster family and then owned by the Massey family (of Massey Hall fame). The best part about the whole business is that the Keg Mansion is also known as “The Haunted Mansion”, because apparently there have been numerous sightings of ghosts, spirits, and other presences over the years (there are articles all over Google if you’re interested in the specifics).

keg mansion

Call me crazy, but I LOVE ghostly type things, so I couldn’t wait to go there. As we were finishing our dinner, two of the women I was sitting with started talking about the second floor bathroom being haunted by a presence of some kind. We may or may not have been drinking a little, so we decided to make a visit to the ladies room to check it out. Up we went, giggling like schoolgirls and found the haunted bathroom. We were expecting something amazing, like the bathroom in Harry Potter where the ghost of that crazy-ass Myrtle chick comes out of the tap, but we were sadly disappointed. It wasn’t even a very NICE bathroom—kind of industrial beige and a bit grubby. We hung around for a bit, but nothing happened so we went back downstairs to our table. “Well,” I said, “that was nothing like the ghost in the bathroom of the house where I used to live.” Heads all turned. “What ghost?!” they wanted to know. So I told them the story I’m about to tell you now. And it’s all true…

I’ve always been a little sensitive to what I call “places that feel icky”, which is the very technical term for “bad mojo”, which is something scientists say. For example, in New Hamburg, we lived in one side of a 100 year-old “twin home”, which is like a semi-detached house. The old basement didn’t LOOK creepy but it felt that way, like someone was watching you, and I avoided going down there like the plague. After a couple of months, we moved into the OTHER side of the house. Same layout, same type and age of basement, only I had no problem going down there at all. No bad vibes whatsoever. A few years later, we bought a house in Washington (Ontario, not DC). It was a huge old Georgian-style place, built in 1863, and pretty run down, having been empty for almost two years after the 80 year-old owner had passed away. We started renovating right away, and started with the upstairs bathroom, which had been built into a back bedroom which became K’s room,  and was clad in pressure-treated boards. It had a wall sink, a clawfoot tub, and a swag lamp for lighting. Totally creepy, dark, and dingy. After redoing the walls with board and batten, painting the whole thing white and updating the fixtures (including a new medicine cabinet), it was much more livable. For me AND for the obnoxious poltergeist who occupied it. Yes, I said “poltergeist”, and it was one with a very juvenile sense of humour. It wasn’t long before things started flying out of the new medicine cabinet. And I don’t mean “falling out”, I mean a kind of forceful lobbing. If I had a dollar for every time I got hit with a hairbrush, or my toothbrush flew into the toilet (or my birth control pills ended up in a bathtub full of water), I’d be a rich woman. There was a built-in cupboard in the corner with upper and lower doors—sometimes if you bent down to get something out of the lower cabinet, when you went to stand up the upper doors would be suddenly open and you’d crack your head on them. Every so often, I’d get really pissed off and yell, “Cut it out, stupid ghost!!” and for a week or two, there would be no incidents. Of course, Ken was totally skeptical, having his own POLTERGEIST-FREE bathroom on the main floor. “Maybe the gravity is just weird in there,” he’d say. “Or maybe the walls are on an angle or something.” But there were two other notable incidents that made me believe that it was more ghost than gravity:

1) One night, I woke up around 1 in the morning. Ken was still up somewhere, and as I was lying there, I could hear sounds coming from the baby monitor. K, who was about two at the time, was talking to someone. I yelled “Ken! What are you doing? It’s one o’clock in the morning—why are you in K’s room?” No answer. I called a couple of more times. I could still hear K talking and a man’s voice, so finally I got ticked off and went into her room. There was no one there. K just kind of looked at me, then closed her eyes and went back to sleep. I totally lost it, and went running around the house (it was a really big old house) looking for Ken. I finally found him in the family room downstairs. “There was someone in K’s room!” I said, and told him what happened. He grabbed a baseball bat, and we searched the house, but we didn’t find anyone. After we calmed down, Ken got all rational. “There are two possible explanations,” he said. “Either you were still asleep and dreamed it, or there’s another baby monitor in town and ours was picking up someone else’s frequency.” Neither of those worked though—first, I was wide awake, and second, K was the first baby in the community in about 12 years, so nobody else had a baby monitor for miles. I know a lot of people are creeped out by baby monitors—there’s a good reason for that as far as I’m concerned.

2) We had a guest bedroom next to K’s room that every once in a while smelled like cigarette smoke, even though we’d repainted it , and no one in our family smoked. One night, I had a really bad cough and, not wanting to disturb Ken, I decided to sleep in there. I woke up coughing around 3 in the morning, and as I was lying there, I heard the distinct sound of the baby gate at the top of the stairs being opened. It was a super-secure gate, and to open it, you had to push down hard on the handle, slide it back, then swing it open. And that was the exact sound I’d just heard—click, slide, swing. I lay there, paralysed with fear, thinking that someone had broken into the house, and waited to hear footsteps before I started screaming (the floorboards were very old and creaky, so if anyone was upstairs, I’d know it in a second). I waited—nothing else happened. The dog didn’t wake up either, so after a while, I just kind of fell back to sleep. But in the morning, I went out into the hall, and the baby gate was wide open.

Now, you might think this was all in my imagination but there are two reasons why I know it wasn’t. Reason one is that a few years later, we moved down the road to the town where we still live. One summer Saturday morning, we were having a garage sale, and a very elderly man drove up. He struck up a conversation with us, said that he’d lived in our area all his life and that he knew the woman who used to own our new old (1906) house quite well. I told him we used to live in Washington in the “big, red house on the corner.”

“I know the place,” he said. “My uncle Len lived there for most of his life, before the people you bought from. He was over eighty when he died. He got really ‘funny’ towards the last part of his life—a real practical joker. His favourite trick was to put on a devil’s mask, then sneak up to the church when the ladies’ choir was practicing. He’d peek in the windows and just about scare them to death, then run away laughing! Of course, it was the cancer that got him in the end—he was a chain smoker, you know.” Yeah, we know. You owe me about twenty toothbrushes, Uncle Len.

Reason two is even creepier. One night a few years ago, I was sleeping and in my dream, I could hear the song “Hey ho, the witch is dead” from The Wizard of OZ, like it was playing on a music box. Just as I woke up, I could still hear the music playing, then it started to wind down slower and slower until it stopped. I freaked out and did what any reasonable person would do—I woke up Ken. “Oh,” he said, “this is just like that baby monitor thing in Washington. You were asleep the whole time. There’s nothing in our room that could have been playing “Hey ho, the witch is dead”—you just dreamed it.” But then I was talking to my mom later that afternoon, and I told her what happened. “That’s strange,” she said. “But wait—didn’t I give you a Hallowe’en snowglobe with the characters from the Wizard of Oz in it a few years ago? I’m sure it played that song when you wound it up.” I ran upstairs and started ransacking the room. Sure enough, I found the snowglobe at the bottom of a drawer in a desk across the room. I wound it up, and guess what it played? Yep. How the hell it had suddenly become wound up and started playing in the middle of the night, I didn’t even want to contemplate. I threw the f*cker into a garbage can on the back porch. But if I didn’t imagine THAT, what does it tell you about the baby monitor? Who knows what secrets the universe holds? Two hundred years ago, if you’d shown someone a television or cell phone, they would have burned you at the stake for being a demon. Or Uncle Len.

A sudden loss

You might have noticed, if you visit this site regularly, that this week’s edition isn’t as funny as usual. Good call. I just didn’t have that much to laugh about this week. My Uncle Gary died very suddenly on Monday night, and we’ve been dealing with this unexpected loss to our family for the last few days. You didn’t know Uncle Gary, of course, but you should have. Everyone should know a man like Gary. He was warm, kind, generous, and told a great story. Sometimes you never knew where the story was going to end up, but it was always worth the wait. Much love, and Godspeed, Gary. We’ll miss you.