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Archive for February, 2016

Sleep. Oh, you elusive vixen, you.

It’s inevitable, it seems. Those days when I try to be a responsible adult are the ones that blow up in my face. We were informed of a recall with our truck for the driver-side air bag. Nice of them to let us know – over three years after it failed to deploy in a freeway tangle with an eighteen-wheeler (I ranted about that in “Hope”). So we figured what the hell, we’ll get a couple other things checked out while it’s at the dealership, including why the check engine light came on a couple weeks ago. Appointment is scheduled, plans are made. I even went to bed at a “reasonable” (read: too damn early for me) time. I was actually tired, having spent most of the day killing goblins and hoarding treasure in one of my computer games. (Hey, YOU try keeping a target on those little bastards when your eyes don’t want to cooperate.)

Anyhoo, I drift off to sleep, cat purring in my ear and husband sounding like Darth Vader with a bad head cold (his face mask for the sleep apnea machine wasn’t properly sealed), and looking forward to breakfast at one of my favorite places while waiting for the truck.

A little over two hours later I’m ordered to the little room down the hall. Most nights I can sleep all the way through. Not this one. Of course. I take care of business. I get back to bed. I wrestle the cat for my spot. How the hell does one thirteen-pound feline entirely fill the space meant for a six-foot tall human? I get under the covers. I throw off the covers. I roll onto my left side. My left hip hurts. I roll onto my right side. My right shoulder hurts. I lay on my back. I have heartburn. I get up and retrieve some Tums. I go through the ritual with the cat again. I play Solitaire on my iPhone. The cat is annoyed I’m not petting him. I finally get us both sort-of comfortable. I’m drifting back to sleep…

Fun fact: my feet move when I’m sleeping. Nothing major, just a little back-and-forth of the toes, similar to a kitten kneading when it’s content. Been doing it as long as I can remember, and it’s not something I have conscious control over. It’s also nothing any of my previous animals have bothered to notice. At least, not to the level that I noticed they noticed. But, for the first time in decades, I have cats that were strays. Cats that had to hunt to survive. Cats that think something wiggling under the blanket must be pounced upon.

I’m jolted back to full wakefulness with two sets of claws embedded in my big toe. Roan is looking mighty pleased with himself, and continues a relentless pursuit across the foot of the bed as I try to extricate my feet from his attention. It’s zero-fucking-dark-thirty and the cats are rarin’ for playtime.

Thankfully, our activity garners the rapt interest of Pip. She’s not sleeping on the bed with us yet, but she’s usually not far, and her sudden appearance merits a celebratory chase around the house. Off the two of them go, the Flying Wallendas crossed with WrestleMania.

I try to get back to sleep, but now I’m having a power surge and sweating despite the fan. More flippity-floppity. More aches and pains. More sweating. And then my husband’s alarm goes off.

I’ve managed to get a whole two hours of sleep. On a day when I need to be driving SoCal freeways, dealing with auto service guys, running errands, buying groceries, retrieving the husband-unit from work, cooking dinner, and cleaning cat boxes. There was a time when I could to that for days on end with no ill affects. But now – firmly in my middle years – the world will be lucky if I don’t leave the husband at the auto shop, drive the groceries to work, and cook the cat boxes.

Naps aren’t just for toddlers anymore.

Scientists have long known about the detriments of sleep-deprivation. Problems can include mood and cognitive issues, depressed immune system, hallucinations, as well as heart attack and stroke (The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Body). Additionally, sleep apnea and insomnia are more common as we age, with men suffering more from the former and women more from the latter. It’s no wonder old people are cranky and forgetful – they’re laying awake worrying about all the stuff that’s going to kill them because they can’t sleep!

And the visit to auto service only gave us more fun news. Recall done – that’s okay, and no charge, thank you, ma’am. But, oh by the way, that check engine code says your transmission is about to crap out. You want it fixed, it’ll cost you $3,000. At least.

There goes the trip to Arizona we had planned, because – even though we’ve noticed no issues with the transmission – my luck just wouldn’t allow us to drive it 300 miles while fully-loaded and not have a problem. And, no, we didn’t leave it at the dealership. I may have boobs, but I’m certainly not one, and the husband is a serious motor head from childhood. We got a second opinion (yes, there is a problem, but not $3K’s worth of a problem), and we’re without wheels for a couple days while it’s taken care of. There went THAT tax refund.

So all the other stuff we were hoping to do (like have a cushion for emergencies) is out the window. Again. And here we are back to living by the penny. I guess I should be used to it by now, since it’s been that way my whole life. But it pisses me off.

And maybe that’s why I’m having trouble sleeping. An angry writer is never a good thing. They lie awake at night and plot your demise…

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I don’t normally watch award shows. Years ago I was a dedicated viewer to the Academy Awards, and would poke my head in on the Emmys and Grammys occasionally, but all the shows became so much over-produced schmaltz that I just couldn’t sit through them anymore. These days, thanks to the lovely wasteland that is the Internet, I can get the complete winners lists, criticize the red carpet couture, and view any interesting highlights without having to suffer through the whole tedious three hours of fake smiles, polite clapping, and crappy elevatorized music. Sorry, Broadcast TV – I’m just not that in to you anymore.

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Photo: Kevin Winter/WireImage.com https://www.grammy.com/photos/lady-gaga-85

So I watched Lady Gaga’s Grammy tribute to David Bowie today, well after the fact (you can view it yourself here). At first I was just going to put a few thoughts on Facebook and leave it at that. But, as usual, there ended up being too many words and especially too many links to really be practical for that forum. Hence, this week’s rant for all you lucky readers.

In a nutshell, it didn’t work for me. When I first heard that Lady Gaga had been tapped to do the tribute, I was thrilled. I admit to being a fan. Much like Bowie, she had to resort to antics for attention before people realized there was actually talent there. Kind of a sad statement for our world, but it’s been that way for so long I’ve given up hoping it can ever change. For those of you who only see the crazy costumes and behavior, you need to check out her duets with Tony Bennett (like this one here), or – better yet – go watch her Super Bowl performance of our national anthem (here). It’s not just tough to sing because it’s our anthem, but the vocal range is really demanding and she nails it. Sadly, she didn’t do the same for Bowie.

I think the biggest problem – besides being more over-produced schmaltz – was Gaga trying to BE Bowie. Her costuming, make up, and even mannerisms were all straight from the early Bowie catalogue. I thought she was off to a good start with “Space Oddity” and the facial projections – that was cool stuff. But she proceeded to go off the deep end with the rest of the performance. Too much, too flashy, too desperate.

And just because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, doesn’t make it the best. I can’t imagine how tough it must be to try and produce some sort of fitting tribute to such a giant in your industry. I know Gaga was indeed attempting to give Bowie a proper salute. But no one can ever be Bowie but Bowie. He became a performer because no one else was singing his songs, and the few who did couldn’t do them the way he thought they should be done. He became a rock icon because he had a singular vision and never swayed from it, touching millions along the way and influencing generations of artists through to the end of time. He can be copied (usually badly), but never duplicated.

Also, in reviewing the songs in the medley, the “newest” one featured was “Let’s Dance.”[1] That was released in 1983, folks. 1983! Bowie had over thirty more years of career after that. Thirty more years which included seven extensive tours[2], ten more solo albums (none of which rated less than Silver in Britain[3]), and numerous awards (including two Grammy’s and a BRIT for Best British Male[4]). Why did less than half of his storied career get acknowledged? Why are we only remembering Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane and the Thin White Duke? His later albums are just as good, IMHO, and this “oversight” just seems to cater to the crazy antics and costuming and not the talent.

You want to see the real Bowie? Go get David Bowie: A Reality Tour. I’d recommend buying the DVD because I like watching things over and over, but you can also rent it through Amazon here. This is how I want to remember Bowie. He’s relaxed and having fun and at the top of his game, giving a two-and-a-half hour show that would exhaust people half his age (he was pushing 57 at the time). There’s no flashy costumes, no hoards of back-up dancers, no crazy make-up, no over-dubbing or auto-tune or any of that other production crap the current crop of “singers” depend on. Just a great voice, a hot band, and a lifetime of incredible music.

Lady Gaga was a fitting choice for the tribute. But her approach was all wrong. She could have still done her face projection thing, but used pictures from his entire life as she sang. And then sung only two songs: “Space Oddity” (his first hit), and “Lazarus” (his last). Sometimes going small can be really big, and that kind of approach would have been a lot more attractive to me.

I don’t think Bowie would have been insulted by her performance, or embarrassed. No, it would have been far worst than that – he would have been disappointed. And we all know how terrible a feeling it is when we disappoint someone we really care about. Someday maybe Lady Gaga will realize the mistake she made and will finally blossom into her full talent. Until then, we’ll just have to make due with the likes of David Bowie. Pardon me, I have a concert to go watch again.

 

(PostScript: I didn’t see it until after I had written the above, but Duncan Jones [Bowie’s son and a brilliant filmmaker in his own right – go see Moon!] had a rather interesting response to Gaga’s performance as well on his Twitter account. You can see it here. Ever the gentleman, I suspect his note is a much more succinct version of my meanderings. But that’s just my take on it. YMMV and all that…)

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bowie_discography

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_David_Bowie_concert_tours

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_music_recording_certifications

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_awards_and_nominations_received_by_David_Bowie

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This is Pip.

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No, it’s my blanket now.

She is entirely black. I named her Pip as sort of a double joke: 1) she’s good at being a little black dot in the great white world, and 2) she has a really tiny, high, squeaky voice (not to mention a very tribble-like chirp she makes much use of), so Pip Squeak was shortened to Pip. She likes flopping down on the floor right in front of you as you walk, begging for belly rubs. A habit this not-so-graceful human is trying to get her out of, as she also tends to do this on the stairs. That’s just a disaster waiting to happen.

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Belly rub time!

She’s been with us since the middle of December. Another rescue from the cat colony in the neighborhood. I had seen glimpses of her when Roan was still outside and I was working with him (you can read about that here), but she never came anywhere close to the house while I was around. A couple of times I spotted her on the back patio at zero-dark-thirty, taking advantage of the food bowl I had out there for Roan. But she would poof into the darkness the instant she noticed I was watching. Once Roan was entirely an inside cat, I took up the food bowl outside. I’m desperately trying to avoid being the crazy cat lady in the weird old house, so – reluctantly – I had to cut off the rest of them (there are at least three others out there).

Getting Roan back into decent shape (he was very thin and dirty) and adapting to his new home kept me occupied for a while. The first couple weeks he would sit by the door and politely ask out. Usually in the middle of the night, so that didn’t happen. But after that he seemed to settle into being a housecat just fine. He’d sit in a window or at the back patio doors and watch whatever was on the channel outside. Occasionally at night one of the other cats would come around and he would get excited and rush around the house marking his territory. We didn’t have the money right away to get him neutered, so I followed him around with an enzymatic cleaner and Febreeze, but it still left my house reeking like a giant cat box. I’d forgotten how strong tomcats smelled.

Over the next few weeks I began to notice he was actually talking to someone outside. That little chirpy thing cats do when they’re curious, not hostile. It took me a bit of patience, but I finally managed to catch a glimpse of the mystery guest. Just a flash of shadow as it disappeared into the night, but I realized it was the little black cat I’d seen before.

A few more weeks and she finally relaxed to the point of merely sauntering away when she saw me, as opposed to teleporting. It became pretty obvious the two of them were developing a relationship (or perhaps had one already? Hey, Joe – whatcha doin’ in there? Jane, you wouldn’t believe it – I get food all day and don’t have to run from dogs!). By this point, it was getting pretty cool at night, and I began to see her in the back yard during the day, curled up in a nest of pine needles in a corner of the fence. When the weather report said temps were going to drop into the twenties (F) at night the next week, I decided it was time to at least try to get her into a cat trap so I could get her to the animal shelter. None of the other cats seemed to be coming around anymore, so I put out the food bowl again.

The second or third day of filling the dish, I realized she was watching me from her spot by the fence. I talked to her a little and slowly made my way back into the house. A couple days later she was hunkered down behind one of the doghouses when I came out, wide-eyed but not running. I backed off and sat on the patio and talked to her while she ate. A couple more days of that and she actually came up to me, and allowed me to pet her. That sealed our doom.

She spent the next couple of nights alternating between the back door and the patio door (which is where the office is, and where I spend most of my time) letting loose with the plaintive little cry she has, begging to be let in. Roan seemed to be seconding the motion, as he would look at me, do that cutesy cat eye blink thing, and meow.

What the hell was I supposed to do? I’m a witch and there’s a black cat at the door.

I made the appropriate appointments at the vet’s and quarantined her in the upstairs bathroom. She and Roan talked to each other all night through the door like a couple of teenagers. The next day they both went in for shots, micro-chipping, and surgery. Turns out Pip had already been spayed, which means someone cared at some point. Given how easily she and Roan adapted to the house and their litter boxes, they likely had been “pets” at some point and then abandoned. I hope Karma makes good use of the creeps who would do that to an animal.

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Pip and Roan, feline overlords extraordinaire

The two of them are doing wonderfully now. They chase each other around the house and wrestle, and both are playing more and more with the toys and me. And I’m doing better, too. My husband has noticed the difference and claims that’s the only reason he tolerates them, but I’ve caught him playing with them, too.

Sometimes it only takes a little thing like a cat’s purr to make all the big, bad things of the world go away. And that same little purr can also serve as a reminder that the little things in life which feed your soul are also the most important. Best you feed it when you can.

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