Clark’s Cat Chat

Reader Katy B writes in:

How do you keep your sleek appearance?
Do you miss not having the urge to go catting around with other female cats?
What is <your person>‘s best, and worst, traits?

Dear Katy,

I’ve been napping and contemplating your questions deeply.
Fur-stly, thank you for your compliment on my appearance!  While I certainly take care of my grooming regularly, I’m not a compulsive bather.  My fur is shiny due to my human giving me plenty of petting – the oils from her skin help keep my my fur shiny.  She also brushes me regularly – I insist on that.
Second item – that is a rather sensitive question.  We boy cats don’t like to discuss our missing, er,  fur balls, not to put to fine a point on it.  That said, I prefer the company of humans.  Other cats, while of course superior creatures to humans, are very hard to control and I don’t like fisticuffs – although I’ll take on any dog that dares come to close, I’d rather not get into a cat fight.
As to my purrson – She is a very attentive and caring human and caters to my needs as best she can.  Unfortunately, she likes to sleep through the best part of the night – between 2-5 am.  I’m doing my best to break her of that habit, and it seems to be working — for the last 2 weeks, I’ve had her up between 3-4 in the morning for food, treats, and walking the halls.  Hoping to get her fully night-trained soon.
Thanks for your very insightful questions!
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Blogs, getcher blogs here

Typical San Francisco day, sipping coffee at an outdoor cafe on the cable car line, with an acquaintance from Los Angeles. We’re shooting the shit about life in San Francisco, the first dot com boom, whether life is “tactile” anymore, why the SF Ballet resembles a fortress (I posit that it is to protect a dying art form from the vagaries of tech bus riders), whether anyone under 30 knows they are supposed to surrender seats on busses for the elderly – without being asked.

At one point, he asks if I have a blog.

Not really, no.

“You should. You seem like a person who should have a blog.”

He’s a writer, so I guess he should know…

So. Does this count?

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Smartphone Blues

Ok, I am going to admit to a very technology-uncool item – I don’t have a smart phone. I still have the old circa 2009 low-tech Tracfone that my Dad gave me, before he died. I’ve held onto it out of sentiment, but I think it’s time to let it go.

Dad at Jacks

That phone had been his lifeline for his many hospitalizations in that previous year or so. Getting a phone line in the hospital was an extra expense and a hassle – and sometimes they didn’t work.  At one of the rehab-nursing care facilities there was only one portable phone shared among all patients on the entire wing – that was never going to work, as he loved to be in touch with friends and family by phone.

So my brother bought him the Tracphone and got it set up for him.  Once when I couldn’t reach him on his new phone, and called the nurses station, they brought the portable — and he was despondent.

“I fell asleep while I was on the phone and the Tracfone phone ran out of minutes, so I’m stuck!!”   I told him it was no problem, I could magically add the minutes for him from across the country, and did so while speaking to him; I heard the little chime in the background as the Tracfone minutes updated, and he was delighted to see it go from 0 minutes to 800 minutes while he watched.

There were so many times I had flown across the country to visit him in the hospital, or the ICU.  Once I took an entire month, got someone to stay with my cats, flew across country to take him to New York City to get a second (and third) opinion about a terminal cancer diagnosis.

The upstate doctors had given him no chance – “You had a good run, Joe” was the statement made by his primary physician during an appointment I’d accompanied him to.  I resolved at that moment to prove that doctor wrong.

We went to NYC, saw oncologists and surgeons at the two major hospitals there.  One surgeon looked at his previous tests, and said they could still do a thoracic surgery – a very invasive procedure with no guarantee of success – if he wanted.

I asked what the odds were – the surgeon gave him a 10% chance. “I’ll TAKE IT!” he exclaimed.  His will to live was strong.

The NYC docs ordered new tests; we went back to NYC a week or two later, and on that visit, the surgeon we met said the new tests showed that the situation seemed to be healing itself, there was no need for surgery, and he no longer thought there was any cancer but that it was some other kind of mass that was being healed/reabsorbed by the body.  We left that appointment and visited the Guggenheim, a building he’d seen being constructed while he lived in NYC, but had never been inside.  That night, we went to Little Italy for dinner.  As we walked back to the car, he needed to stop and take a rest, so he went to sit on a doorstep.  He was a little unsteady and sort of landed a little hard on the step.

A young woman walking past asked him, “Are you OK sir??

He looked up at her, cane in one hand, stair railing in the other.  He let go of the stair railing, raised his hand and with a bright smile and big eyed grin, said in a stage voice, “I’m going to LIVE!”

She walked away confused, but it made me laugh.

He was a guy who had lived through four heart attacks – FOUR heart attacks!  So many people don’t survive the first one, and he’d survived four.  Two open heart surgeries – during one in the early 1990s, he’d technically “died” for about a minute as he went into cardiac arrest on the table – but survived.  Other surgeries over the years, new arteries put into both legs, back surgeries, eye surgeries, and a long list of chronic health issues – but he kept on going.

But there came a time when his near miraculous ability to recover from the brink was no more.  A few months after his fourth heart attack, he was sent back to the hospital, and he wasn’t bouncing back the way he had so many times before.   When he was given a terminal diagnosis and a few months to live, we were told we had 48 hours to move him from the hospital either to a nursing facility,  or that we needed to set up 24 hour nursing at home for the transition period.

He said he wanted to go home.

So, we got him home, after jumping through seemingly endless medical and administrative hoops.

A few months later, I visited again to spend some more time with him now that he was settled at home.   I’d be there with him in the night when he’d wake up confused. He usually recognized me in the afternoons, and the time we had together to talk or interact was usually after lunch, when the pain killers had kicked in but were at a lower dose than the nighttime.

One afternoon, when he was up and talking, he saw me struggle with my cell phone; I’d dropped it and the screen had smashed, and he offered me his Tracphone.  I didn’t want to take it, but he insisted.

“This is the only thing I own now. I want you to have it. It’s the only thing I can give you.”


“I won’t need it anymore.”

I’ve been using that phone ever since, for about four years. Part of the face of it fell off and was lost, but it still functions. Has no internet service or other bells/whistles, just a basic phone. No apps. No iTunes. Nothing but cell service. I almost feel like I’m carrying a pager sometimes. I see people trying not to stare at me when I use it in public. Once someone picked it up off a bar and tried to change the TV channels with it.

I’ve resisted getting a smartphone because that would mean retiring this little piece of my Dad, and I think of him most times when I use it. But, I think it is time to upgrade, as it’s nearly impossible to navigate the world without one these days.
I’ll still keep the Tracfone, as a memento… He sure loved to talk on the phone.

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From the “Ask a Stupid Question” Department

A new coffee shop called “Saint Frank” opened up in my neighborhood. I ventured in while waiting for my bus to work.

The coffee bags were insanely expensive. $17.00 for a HALF pound of ground coffee! That’s more than twice what you’d pay for, say, Starbucks brand, and even more than Blue Bottle brand.

As I browsed the brown bagged beans on the wall, the young man behind the counter kindly offered to answer any questions I may have.

“Ok,” I said. “I have a question. Why is your coffee so incredibly expensive?”

He did not blink or flinch at this very direct question – undoubtedly has been trained how to answer.

“Well,” he started, filling up a espresso maker portafilter with ground coffee, “Our coffee is sourced from a variety of growers, and they use the best methods to make the best coffee, which can sometimes take longer and is more costly.”

I interrupted him – “Such as, what kind of methods?”

He seemed momentarily stumped, as he leveled off the coffee grounds in the portafilter with a special leveler. “Well, it depends on the type of coffee. Sometimes it is organic farming. Sometimes it may be a special drying process. It really depends.”

I decided to let this slide. He continued. “So, we feel that those people who are doing the work deserve to be paid fairly for their work.”

I interrupt again. The story may be true, or have a version of the truth in it, but my inner cynic was already waving red flags and she took over the conversation…. “Oh. So – to pay them fairly for the extra work, you mark up the coffee well above any other coffee out there, so that you can retain the same amount of profit as other coffee companies while passing on a little more money to growers whom you’ve asked to do extra work on the product. But you aren’t really sharing the profit, you’re just charging more to the consumer and keeping the same percentage of profit as every other coffee selling company.”

He stared at me. The espresso machine spouted steam.

It wasn’t fair, I suppose, to cast it that way to the guy behind the counter just doing his job. Why shouldn’t they make the same profit as everyone else, and pay farmers a bit more, if there are wealthy San Franciscans willing to pay $17.00 for a half a pound of coffee? And who knows – maybe they really are a kinder, better paying coffee company. But my cynic was not longer interested in hearing any more justifications for the insanely expensive coffee. All she saw through the cynic-filter was a company profiting off those coffee farmers twice – once, to make a profit selling their coffee — and again, to make a BIGGER profit by overpricing the coffee and selling the “we are more fair to the farmers” story to the consumer. Truth or fiction? No way to know in the moment.

I decided to make a quick exit. I smiled and thanked him for the explanation and left.

But, ask a stupid question – get a stupid answer.

Why is your coffee so expensive?”

 “Because we charge more.” 

End of story.

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Heaven, in June, with catnip.

Tonight when I arrived home after a choir rehearsal, with a side trip to see two old friends perform at a local lounge, I was musically saturated.  My little apartment was piping hot, so I opened all the doors and windows, and sat in a little chair just outside my front door, and enjoyed the slightly chilled air in the lobby.

My senior cat came out to join me, and stopped a few feet away to sit in perfect Cat-ness on the cool linoleum floor, her calico patches smooth under the dim full-spectrum 25 watt bulb above her.

To get a little air flow, I’d propped the building door open, so the slight breeze came through the outer iron gate (still locked) and through the second open doorway, and brushed her white whiskers. She stared at nothing for a few minutes, as a cat is wont to do; then took three turns around my ankles and demanded a midnight snack. I was happy to comply. So glad this gorgeous senior Calico Gal is chomping away at meals again.

After dinner, she lounged on her brand new, Double-Wide Trader Joe’s Cat Scratcher, complete with fresh catnip sprinkled in all the cardboard crevices.

Heaven, in June, with catnip.

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Night falls

the blanket of darkness
falls around me, making space
for the events of the day to relax,
be still and simply
what they are,
casting no shadows,
opening themselves up
not for scrutiny under bright inspection,
but for expansion into spaces
not dreamt of in the harsh light of day.

– Kitty Ultrasound

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Faux Paw

The cat has finally forgiven me for my terrible “faux paw” this morning.

I had taken the viola out of its dusty case and played a few scratchy scales. The cat stared at me first in disbelief, then pain, then horror, then anger, as her pupils widened and she slunk away to the furthest corner of the room. I put the instrument away, which did not assuage her fury.

Upon inquiry, she declared that I had assaulted her delicate triangular ears with this monstrosity, and would not speak to me further for two hours.

She relented after a nap and is now nestled on my lap.Image

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