Archive for May, 2019

On Writing with a Cat

The cat wouldn’t leave me alone at this desk until I wanted to take her picture.

I don’t really like kids. I know that seems like an odd way to start off a post about cats and writing. But oh well.

Oh, I understand that kids are necessary. The way a fire engine is necessary. They are both super loud and nobody is happy when they’re around, but we admit that both are probably needed. Every person I know and like used to be a kid. I even concede, in my most honest moments, that I too was at one point in the past, a kid. And, as my mom likes to remind me every time I say that I don’t like kids, I was a very bad kid. But despite all of that and despite the fact that I strive for reason and balance in my life, I just don’t like ‘em.

Surely one of three things has now occurred if you have read the last two paragraphs. One, you have grown disgusted by me, snapped off my webpage, and promised that you will not talk to me until I see you at Christmas. Two, you are nodding your head and saying, hells yeah, or some variation. Three, you are wondering why.

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Birds at the Gate

The B Monster is standing up at the kitchen window, paws pressed against it, she is looking out and chirping. I peek out to see two magpies sitting on our outside window sill. The cat is beside herself with excitement. So close. The magpies seem to be conversing and the cat’s chirps seem to play in counterpoint with the birds’ chatter.

One of the magpies nods his head and the cat steps away from the window. She saunters to her food bowl and sits down to a midday snack. The birds fly away. Strange, I think, that all seemed oddly coordinated.

I’ve always loved birds. But seriously, what’s not to love about animals that fly around, build houses with their faces, and sing for you as you walk by? Nothing. They’re also neatly patterned and pretty smart. Some birds have been proven to employ tools to construct homes or to open things like nuts. I could not and cannot accurately wrap my head around the complexity of these beings’ social order, their signaling system, or their abilities to fly in patterns with a hundred other birds. To varying extents, explanations for these things still elude scientists. But I can observe and enjoy.   

Though I am in no way an ornithologist, I have enjoyed observation of our flying buddies. This mostly occurred in my last flat, where I would watch with fascination the interactions within the magpie community from my porch. This interaction included what were almost certainly battles, as groups and couples of magpies would chase around other groups aggressively chirping and shouting at each other. I would stand on the porch holding the B Monster as still as possible as she stared with impossible intensity. When we moved in March, there was the sadness of leaving behind a neighborhood of animals and sounds and trees and things we were used to.  

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The Formal Online Education of Spiderman

photo courtesy of

I am in the kitchen working on an article. It’s a pleasant Sunday afternoon, rotating from rainy to raining to storming. The B Monster has recently learned how easily she can jump from the floor to the kitchen table, so she is providing a buffer between me and my computer screen. Now and then she gauges and then makes a ninjaesque leap to the counter from the table. Other than the cat distraction, I look out at the stormy weather and enjoy the occasional Schadenfreudian giggle at someone running through the rain with a bag held over their heads.

Since it’s Sunday I alternate work with Netflix, today it’s The Walking Dead. And I also eat freely. It’s one of the major benefits to working in the kitchen. It’s a pretty nice Sunday.

Burke is in the living room teaching online. She teaches kids in China short English lessons. It’s all done through a company so the lesson is highly regimented to the point that there’s almost a script to follow. She starts out each lesson saying hello and introducing herself in loud clear English (as required by the company, not a version of the American English Tourist Dialect).

And then she says, “What’s your name?”

Since she wears headset, I can’t hear the child’s response, I only hear Burke say “Nice to meet you, Student’s Name.”

The names are mostly Anglicized names; I am not sure if they are given them at birth or allowed to choose them. In the last three weeks I have heard lots of names. Carl. Brad. Vivian. Denise. Torie. Robert. There was a Tiger last week. Of course when I hear the name I wonder about its origin. Vivian? Sort of old fashioned, maybe it’s making a comeback? Brad? Parents love Brad Pitt? Wonder how they felt about Brangelina breaking up. Who knows?

I hear the name used repeatedly for 25 straight minutes (Brad, what color is this? Brad, can you circle the dog? Good job, Brad! Nice job, Brad! Brad, come back!) it’s natural that it preys on my mind a bit.

So today, over the sound of a beloved Walking Dead character screeching as they become living sustenance to the zombies, I hear it. “Nice to meet you, Spiderman!”

I pause Netflix.

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Kitchen Dweller

Morning work station. Pen. Notebook. Coffee. Cookies within reach. Check.

I’m in the kitchen writing. It’s a rainy Sunday morning, I’m sipping coffee and clicking away at the keyboard. From ground level, I hear a short growl and then I feel a paw on my thigh. That cat wants up. I lift my left arm and she vaults onto my thigh and sits there as though it’s December in a mall and she’s about to tell me about the Chewbacca Lego kit she wants me to bring her.

She tentatively makes the leap to the table, where she roams around before settling behind my computer. She comes back to my side, stares at the screen and offers small editing advice in disgruntled chirps. When she’s had enough, she splits off into the living room, where she does some facsimile of the same thing to Burke.

My new flat has three main rooms in which one doesn’t poop or shower. Living room, bedroom, and kitchen. They are all pleasant in their own way. The living room windows look onto the backyard and so it’s peacefully quiet. It gets no direct light in the morning, so it’s mellow and cool and it gets a nice breeze. The bedroom gets that nice morning light and the room is usually warm and comfy. It’s also about .0007 seconds closer to the bathroom than the living room, which can be important to men in their advancing years. The kitchen is cozy, cool, and bright. Plus, it’s where my cookies and coffee live.

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