Friday, April 18, 2008

Don Juan Seamus De Marco, or Mr. Personality (Pt.1) Artful Dodger and Tatiana

Seamus has almost always been a solo kitty, but he has had a number of pals over the years via neighbors and strays, as well as his share of enemies, both imagined and somewhat real. For Marcie and me, his interaction in the various communities of cats was like a window into a rather structured feline society.


But the specialness of Seamus for us is and was in his distinct and strong individuality. It was on display from the moment he entered our world.


Marcie had known Seamus for about a week when I met him. She had found him at a Petco adoption cage, where non-bred cats are put on display for adoption  She did not want to adopt from a store, but he won her over. From a note card to me:


“He was full of the devil,” she said. “He pranced and pounced all over the cage and bossed his brothers and sisters around, climbed up to the top and swatted at my hand through the roof when I took his favorite mouse on a string. He was just Mr. Personality, and I knew he was the one. He’s your total kitty match.”


So, the next day she plunked down $40 and adopted him. She did not name him, preferring that I did those honors, as he would be a gift. She had one problem: my birthday was two weeks away. So, she left him with her parents, where Seamus met his first adult cat, Samantha.


“Oh, he was too rambunctious for Sammie,” Marcie told me when she explained his appearance a week ahead of my birthday. “He had to be separated from her.”


He had apparently inspired numerous swats and hisses, and had not limited his wild interactions to Samantha. He had, in fact, even entered pitched battle with Mr. Stoddard’s shoelaces. Unfortunately, this protracted, multiple-episode melee took place while Bob was wearing the shoes in question. There were unintended casualties among the local toe population.


The decision to evacuate him was made posthaste.


It did not take long for Seamus to meet some new friends, though. We had a lot of cat people as neighbors. But he almost blew his first pair of pals and, I am proud to say, bad lunch food saved the day.


When he was first taken outside, he met “Dodger,” a large neutered male with long fur and a sweet disposition, and “Tatiana,” a beautiful long-furred calico. Both were companions to Chip, our neighbor and law student, who was more than willing to introduce his cats to the newbie.


It was a difficult debut. Upon seeing the two very large (if wonderfully gentle) cats emerge from the other apartment, his head went down and fur puffed out, his back arched high and his tail went ramrod stiff and bottlebrush puffy. The longest hiss I have ever heard leaked out of him for almost 10 seconds, impressing both Chip and Dodger, who sat back and watched nervously. Tatiana hissed back and ducked low.


Seamus strutted and walked slowly, growling and spitting whenever someone tried to pet or pick him up, a tiny little kitten doing his best to emulate a whirling, noisy, furry cactus. However, a trick brought everything to a calmer level. I placed a place of fried hot dog bits between the cats. Dodger and Tatiana sniffed at the food and started eating. Seamus became curious.


He very gingerly worked his way to the plate, snaking his paw inside and snagging a piece from between the two larger cats, then hopping off with a hiss from behind it as he carried it in his jaws. I took another piece and rubbed his face and head, as well as his ears, then put it back on the plate.


When Seamus came back for another piece, still puff-furred, Dodger caught a whiff of his head and sniffed. Seamus slipped in and started licking the plate, as Tatiana had gotten the last piece. Dodger started licking him, to low complaining growls as Seamus cleaned the dish. Tatiana soon hooked a paw around Seamus and sat down, grooming him. Seamus complained and focused on the food, less vociferous in his protests. Dodger reclined and watched calmly.


Then we had a breakthrough. I heard the little motor kick over and Seamus purred as Tatiana licked him. Then, as he grew tired of the plate, he tried to walk away. Tatiana corralled him and pulled him in close as he mewed a bit. His head was suddenly in her fur, though, as she held him. He tried to nurse instinctively on her belly and she groomed him more.


He had made two friends in much less time than most said it could happen, and they would remain his companions until we moved. But he had the love of his life to meet yet, and other cats awaited him in the calm byways of Cortez Hill.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Seamus-The short feature film!

I will be posting a film of Seamus when I get a chance to record, edit and compose a little video properly. For tonight, you might see a post later on all of his cat friends from years past, including Kazi the love-muppet kitten, his first (and only) girlfriend. We’ll see.



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Heart attacks and sneaky cat tricks (pt. 2)

Of course, after consoling Marcie and sitting her on the couch, I went about replicating her work. She was not pleased.

"I checked there already," she said. "I checked there, too. Frank, I'm not stupid, I looked there."

I kissed her. "But he could have been moving from place to place like a little ninja, so I wanted to check back again," I said.

She rolled her eyes and picked up a book to read by Anaïs Nin. She was upset, but decided to leave me to my devices.

I checked every cupboard, cabinet, under the bed, out in the yard, behind every bit of furniture, on top of our bookshelves and behind the rows of shoe boxes in Marcie's closet. I removed the bottom drawer from our shared dresser and looked there, since Seamus had learned that an open drawer was an easy path into the little space beneath the dresser, a fittingly snug, dark and quiet den to inhabit.

No dice. No cat. Not even a swatch of telltale fuzz to track him, or that powdery kitten smell.

She bit her lower lip and tucked her chin down on her chest, tears beginning again. "I think he may have gotten outside. Maybe someone stole him."

It was plausible. Seamus, at the ripe age of four months, had developed an array of escape tactics. For a month or so, he had gotten into the mail slot and been able to squirm up through the wall and out to freedom. We took to leaving a book in it, denying his little paws purchase. Eventually, he was too big to pull it off.

After that, he figured out how to swat at the handle until the screen door opened. This was trouble, as we were in the hottest part of summer and closing the door was no option for us. We fixed the latch. He figured out that he could hook the loose latch and unlock that, as well.

When we tightened the hydraulic that kept the door closed, he took to barely unlatching it, then using a running start to slam into the door, clinging to the screen as it swung open, finally leaping off and flying down the stairs with his ears back and fur raised as the screen slammed behind him.

He was also slick. If he knew we were watching, he would not open the door. It was impressive to watch when i finally observed the sequence. He would let out an occasional meow as he worked, look around a bit and keep batting at the mechanism. When he had the door a bit ajar, he would start chattering and seize on the carpet excitedly before turning and charging.

A naughty genius, he was. I quite enjoyed that.

But it was hard to reconcile my admiration for the little mischievous guy as Marcie's furrowed brow and bit lip persisted. I ventured outside a little miffed. I checked the field and looked for him all over the neighborhood, including under the love shacks in the back of the property with a flashlight, as they were favorite dirty dens for him when he was on the kitty lam.

When I came home at dusk empty-handed an hour after I began my search, Marcie was crestfallen.

"What if he got out onto the freeway?" she asked, holding her head in a hand, the other across her stomach.

I just hugged her and said "He'll come home when he's hungry." I was not sure but I knew I had to pretend that he was fine, doubts be damned.

There would be two more full house searches, the use of his food box as a shaker to lure him as we called, and finally Marcie, at 10:30, decided to go to bed. I joined her a bit later after designing a missing poster on my Atari, which I did not share with her.

She woke me at 2 a.m.

"Honey," she said. "I hear Seamus crying outside."

I heard a light, muffled mewing, too. I grabbed my mag light and walked out in the nude before I realized I should be dressed and went back in. She was laughing, a beautiful sound after a long evening, despite being awoken so late. I slipped on some shorts and slippers and off I went again. I looked everywhere, and had no luck. But when I went back inside, we heard him again.

I had an epiphany and looked under the bed, up into the box springs. There was no Seamus there, but I heard him behind me. I looked at the dresser and pulled out each drawer, one by one, starting with the bottom one. The third one up revealed a disheveled kitty who staggered out from the tiny space behind the drawer.

"Ohhhh, baby, oh my god are you okay?" she coosed, picking him up and cuddling him against her bosom as he squirmed and complained. "Oh you are such a bad boy to scare me like that."

I chuckled in relief and we watched him as he led us into the kitchen, where he demanded his food loudly. We stayed and she sat in my lap as he ate, sighing a bit and looking at me with a mix of relief and resolve.

"He's never getting out of my sight again," she said. "I nearly had a heart attack. I was sick, Frank. SICK! With worry and just fear. No more. And no more outside play time, either."

I nodded and did not comment on the practicality of that pronouncement. Luckily, she did not stick to it, and Seamus was not imprisoned. But we learned eventually that he might not care much what we thought of his need to be hidden and away from us, a lesson he reinforced quite often...

A Thought On Love and Hate

A thought for the day, formulated as I ran last night (and before a delightful evening at a wine bar as my reward):

"All good things can be found in the wake of love, but hatred is only followed by sorrow."

Last night's part 2 about Seamus did not get posted somehow, so I have to rewrite it. That will happen later this afternoon.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Heart attacks and sneaky cat tricks (pt. 1)

Seamus has personality. Seamus’s personality is often cranky, but he’s also occasionally wonderfully sweet and he is a clever, if mercurial, little grumpling. His abilities to stress us out, however, started when he was extremely small.


Seamus was known to hide in little nooks and crannies throughout the house when he was but a wee puff of feisty fur. He could secrete himself into anything and fall asleep. When Seamus was a kitten, I would often find him sleeping in my shoes, in my backpack, in my watch caps and even in Marcie’ purse .


But his worst combination of the hidey-hole habit was his proclivity to “hide-and-go-sleep.”


We would usually find him under the bed, behind the couch, or in his “sock pile of under-the-television-stand comfort.”  But one Saturday, after a long stretch in the sun watching people’s runts bound about on a bouncy jump, I was greeted at the door by a tearful Marcie.


“Honey?” I asked. “What’s wrong?”


“Oh, my god, Frank, I am so sorry,” she moaned, hugging me. “I think Seamus got out and someone snatched him. I can’t find him anywhere, and I tore apart the house twice already.”


I knew it was going to be a long night as I stroked her back and hugged her into my chest.



Monday, April 14, 2008

Getting back to Seamus

At first glance, the idea of Seamus and Marcie and my marriage being related might seem a little bit of a stretch. However, aside from Seamus sometimes being the fluffy glue of our relationship, there is a very direct connection to our first anniversary and Seamus.

When Marcie suggested we re-honeymoon in Vegas, staying at the Luxor, I was quick to agree. I wanted to make up for my illness and hopefully enjoy myself and my wife a bit more. Everything was set, and Barbara had volunteered to keep an eye on Seamus, as opposed to having him stay in a kitty kennel for our trip.

We arrived in Vegas and soon checked in at the Luxor. We had gotten a room in the Pyramid, which was a terrible mistake, as it would turn out. The space was cramped, the bedclothes were somewhat uncomfortable, and the place was just... subpar. We began agitating for a suite in one of the towers after a tryst in the scratchy sheets.

As Marcie hammered the front desk for better accomodations in which to get her satisfaction, I contacted my coworkers from Pavia-Volpe, including my buddy Ruben Gonzalez, and made arrangements to pop in for a minute at his party. But it was not to be.

The phone rang as Marcie worked on her war paint and I finished repacking us for our move to the suite we'd been offered. I grabbed it, assuming it was Ruben or the front desk.

"Hello, room 2417 here," I said. "Can we go someplace else and stain a new set of sheets now?

"Fraaaank? Helloooo?" Barbara said.

Uncomfortable? Yeah, and how. I recovered without missing a beat, though.

"Um, hello, Barbara," I said, recognizing the whine and near-panic she laced her non-routine calls with. "Are you okay? You sound upset."

"No, we're not okay," she said. "Seamus is sick and he's crying a lot."

Marcie had heard "Barbara" and "Upset" and came out, gorgeous and beautiful, dressed to the nines and maximally painted for effect. Even worried, she looked so hot. She took the phone.

"Oh, no," she said, holding her forehead and looking away from me as I gestured, "What is it?"

"Well, mom, you have to take him to the vet, and you have to get him into the cage, so just please try," she said. "Don't worry if he pees in it, in fact, that would be good if he did. Just call the vet number I left you."

Marcie hanged up the phone and looked at me.

"Honey, Seamus hasn't peed and he is howling at her," she said. "We have to go home as soon as possible because she's freaking out and she doesn't know what to do. Why don't you go downstairs and wait for me by the Chinese restaurant? I'll be down soon, I promise."

When she came down, about a half hour later, she had smeared makeup and was back in her sweats. "Honey, I am so sorry, but I had to spend every last dime on a flight home. My mom refuses to put Seamus in her car while he is howling and she is very upset."

Home we went, flying only two hours later. When we got there, Barbara picked us up and we packed Seamus into the car. A urinary tract infection meant not only a $1,000 veterinary bill filled with things we did not ask for, but a change of veterinarian, soft food forever, and a cat that lost weight rapidly for a few years afterward.

But our little family was intact, and Seamus was safe at home with us again, regardless our aborted Vegas debauch and bacchanalian. There would be other trips to Vegas, but there would only be one Seamus, and Marcie and I both agreed over more modest anniversary activities that our bed was better than the Luxor's by far.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Tough Time to Wed (Conclusion-R)

As I had said before, I was ill the whole time during our wedding trip. This did not end with wedding day.

After the wedding, Marcie decided we should walk to the Stratosphere. On the way there, Reverend Paged by His Cellphone pulled over and offered a ride, which we took.

We started toward the doors. "I can't wait to try the ride," Marcie said.

"I can't wait to have a drink and relax," I said, pinching her butt.

"Honey, can we take the ride first?" she asked, pushing up against my arm with one of my favorite parts of her. It was a surefire tactic.

"Yes, we can," I said.

We hit the ride. It was not much of a roller coaster, far too short and not very fast, but it was high above the valley and we saw for miles and miles.

"Oh, that was fun," she said to the attendant. "Thank you."

But as we cleared the door into the Top of The World Lounge, she leaned in close and whispered, "Honey, did you think that ride was kind of short?"

"Yes," I said. "Mercifully short. I'll meet you at the bar?"

"Oh, honey, are you okay?" she said. "Oh, geez. I'll be at the end of the bar."

And so another dash to the restroom ensued, this one without anything but a lot of horrible cramps and loud gas. I felt pretty greenish when it subsided.

We enjoyed our drink and I kissed her as she looked out on the view of the valley. She commented that I felt hot and I made a lame joke.

It was time to go. "Let's do the roller coaster at New York New York next," she said, excitedly charging down Las Vegas Boulevard.

I stopped and she looked at me. I waited for her to put it together. She refused to budge, and I realized that she was working her list. Lists were like inviolable plans from which nothing shall stray in Marcie's world.

"Honey, it will be so fast, and if you get sick, you get sick," she said.

"How about I rest and try to not get sick anymore on my honeymoon?" I asked.

"Fine," she said. "But don't expect to wait on you and baby you. You're sick, you have a little stomach ache. You're not dying."

She worked on me for a half hour. Finally she called, got a reservation and left the room, snarling "Fine, if you want to be such a big fucking baby, I'll go by myself."

When she came back, she brought me some Pepto from the4 Osco or Sav-on down the street. She apologized and then let me cuddle up with her while she described her roller coaster adventure.

"Well, it is totally fun," she said. "You go through loops and barrel-rolls, you're like 150 feet off the ground, and people are screaming the whole time."

She had sat in the front with "a nice young man," as she put it. I knew it was a jab at me, but i just kissed her as she described the roller coaster car, which was a cross between "an old New York cab and a hot rod."

I enjoyed her happy banter as I drifted off a little. She woke me up and kissed me, and after a very sweet first-time-as-a-married-couple lovemaking session, we took a bath.

When she got out and started to dress for later, I closed the doors and rejoiced that my stomach had held out with the pepto, though its disquiet was coming back with a vengeance.

We went out for a nice bite at the Monte Carlo's steakhouse, where I ordered a meal I thought my stomach had settled enough for the next day. It had, until I got back to the room and lost it.

That night, we saw George Carlin at Bally's, and his act became a part of our ritual visits. As a side note, I had to get up four times total from the opener through Carlin's act, so some of it seemed fresh the next year, though Marcie did not think so.

Marcie got home, drunk and happy, and passed out in her evening wear. I was awake until some more pepto kicked in.

I thought the last day of our little elopement would be the best. I awoke with a settled and happy stomach. My fever had broken, leaving a spectacular Frank-shaped, wet dent on the bed. I felt great.

We ordered in for breakfast and Marcie crossed off yet another item from her list. We had a tender morning and wandered down to gamble for an hour or so, then off to her next stop: Mandalay Bay.

Mandalay Bay had hosted the Lennox-Tua fight the night before, and the crowd had not completely dispersed. We enjoyed a little walking tour of the grounds first. I was fine.

Then, after a quick peek of the head into a restaurant, a smell kind of hit the wrong nerve and my stomach rumbled audibly.

"Oh, honey," Marcie asked. "Are you hungry again?"

I was not, and I gave her a grim shake of the head. "No, no. I think I am fine."

We walked past a couple of restaurants more, and watched the pretentious wine tower with its rigged bartenders going up and down on wires. My stomach was more sour by the minute. I chugged some pepto.

By the time Marcie tried a little more gambling, my belly was in full revolt. We made it to the shark encounter, then Marcie said we shoudl give the shark exhibit a visit.

I was dubious, and my stomach agreed with that outlook. "Let me ask if they have restrooms in the tour, okay?"

No restrooms.

"Frank! Come on!" she said.

I was not glad that I skipped it, but shortly after she left on her own, instead of waiting a little for me to be sure all was clear, I went into the restroom. I got out when she returned. but she had already written her little note.

As she tucked it away in her purse, she commented, "You know, you are going to regret not petting the sharks with me and not riding the roller coaster. Mark my words."

I do regret those things, of course. I also regret every moment in which I could have gone with her to a movie I did not really want to see, or taken a walk with her in Point Loma instead of surfed mission beach.

I regret working my job when she was sick, not being able to be there every second, and every lost moment that necessity and society and general life kept us apart.

But they did not seem like important things at the time.And these regrets are far outweighed by the times I took the risks she wanted me to so we could have more life together in the time we did get.