Bye Bye Buddy

July 23, 2011

When Paloma and I got together, she brought two felines with her, Coltrane and Sam.

Coltrane was petite and graceful, quiet and sphinx-like with her black fur giving her an air of elegance.

As for Sam, I must confess that I didn’t think much of her. She had heft to her and didn’t so much enter the room as charge into it like some wild animal rumbling from the underbrush.

(Paloma would often suggest – only half-jokingly – that she might indeed be part badger)

Sam didn’t strike me as particularly bright, either, as she’d sit, motionless, and stare at me dully to the point of distraction.

And, her small, pink nose was usually covered in dirt.

Yeah, I didn’t think much of Sammy.

Slowly, I began to notice that, though Sam in motion could be a somewhat comical exhibition of locomotion, she had quick, nimble feet and a surprising amount of agility which was demonstrated effortlessly.

The staring was merely a manifestation of her desire to interact with people.

I viewed Sam as a bit of an underdog and I am sucker for the underdog. She slowly won me over and, though we had no shortage of nicknames for her, I gave her one more…

The Buddy.

And that is what she’s been for the past five years – The Buddy.

Each day as I arrived home from an often grueling day at the office, if she wasn’t at the door as I opened it, she was rushing into the room to greet me.

Every day.

If only momentarily, the pressures of the day would be forgotten. It was impossible not to smile at her obvious enthusiasm over my return and I’d spend several minutes stroking her head as she’d lick my face.

She’d amble into the kitchen with me as I’d go see what Paloma was working on for dinner and she’d follow me into the bedroom while I shed my work clothes.

From my morning shower – when I’d often look down to see Sam pacing on the lip of the tub, rustling the shower curtains – until I turned out the lights and headed for bed, she was usually there.

And now she’s not.

Over the 4th of July, when I was home for a couple extra days, I realized that things had changed.

Sam followed me from room to room, but there was something palpably different in the way she would stare at me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that she wanted something that I was unable to offer.

So, yesterday Paloma and I curled up in bed with Sam between us and said our goodbyes.

She seemed more contented and at peace than she had in weeks as she lay there drowsily, basking in the attention.

And this morning, Paloma and I are both astounded at how quiet things are without Sam’s vibrant spirit.

Goodbye, Sammy. You’ll always be The Buddy.

Mark Knopfler – Going Home (Theme Of The Local Hero)
from Local Hero

I considered posting some soft rock from the ’70s as we’ve long suspected that Sam dug the music of America. But the song that has kept coming into my head the past few days has been the closing song from Dire Straits’ guitarist Mark Knopfler’s soundtrack to the movie Local Hero.

Much like Sam, the movie is low-key, quirky and sweet with a charm that sneaks up on you and is hard to shake.

As for the song, there’s a touch of sadness, but that quickly gives way to a determined melody and concludes with an anthemic, almost joyous close that leaves you feeling that everything’s going to be alright.

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Cat D’État

January 29, 2011

Paloma and I killed most of a Saturday afternoon several years ago sucked into a Discovery channel marathon of the series Survivorman.

For the uninitiated, the show starred a fellow named Les Stroud who would place himself in precarious situations – stranded in remote, Canadian wilderness or adrift, alone, in the ocean – and videotape his efforts to not perish.

Then came Man Vs. Wild starring Bear Gryllis, with a similar premise.

Paloma immediately championed Bear mostly as he could be her brother’s doppelganger.

(the only difference between the two is, essentially, a British accent)

I preferred Les.

Bear was some British ex-Special Forces character. His country had invested considerable amounts of cash to train him to survive dangerous situations and perform feats of derring-do.

But Les…Les was everyman.

I couldn’t relate to Bear’s skills, panache or accent, but I could empathize with Les as he failed to trap a rabbit to eat or had a tantrum, bitching about his self-inflicted predicament.

(of course, Paloma and I were both puzzled by Les’ need to take his clothes of in almost every episode no matter how frigid the conditions)

There were moments when I’d watch Les and think that I wouldn’t be surprised if he failed to live up to his show’s ambitious title.

I’ve been thinking of Les the past couple days as, in essence, I am in the midst of a personal Survivorman situation.

Paloma has taken a trip to visit her mother and Bear Gryllis-doppelganger brother, leaving me to fend for myself. It’s the first time we’ve been apart in quite some time.

Now, I’ve often lived on my own, so there is little likelihood that I will have to snare a rabbit as there are a number of pizza places a mere seven digits away who will bring me sustenance.

I will have to make coffee and, I must confess, the coffee maker baffles me, but I should be able to manage.

No, the concern is our animals, four cats – Sam, Pizza, JuJu, and Ravi.

I am fond of this feline quartet and they are fond of me.

However, the four of them hang on each move Paloma makes. If, for some reason, she isn’t here when they expect her to be, chaos ensues.

(chaos consisting of much confused milling about)

Oh, it might seem like a peaceful protest, but these things have a tendency of late to mushroom and I have the proof as I watch the images being beamed from Cairo.

I have legitimate concerns that, when nightfall arrives and Paloma is absent, things could get ugly.

It is said, though, that music soothes the savage beast and Paloma has long insisted that Sam, the eldest in the menagerie, has a fondness for ’70s light rock (especially the trio America).

So, here are four songs from Billboard magazine’s easy listening chart for this week in 1978 that I hope will quell any uprising…

Player – Baby Come Back
from Super Hits Of The 70s: Have A Nice Day Volume 21

I had to check Player’s Wikipedia entry to see if I even knew another song by the group aside from the mammoth Baby Come Back. I did recognize their other Top Ten hit, This Time I’m In It For Love from later in ’78.

The breezy Baby Come Back is the one that everyone remembers, though, and the song has gained new life in recent years through its use in television commercials.

David Gates – The Goodbye Girl
from Super Hits Of The 70s: Have A Nice Day Volume 21

I didn’t see the movie The Goodbye Girl, though I did recognize Richard Dreyfuss in the television commercials as Roy Neary from Close Encounters Of A Third Kind.

Mostly, I remember seeing Quinn Cummings, a child actress who was my age, on some afternoon talk show – Mike Douglas or Dinah Shore – promoting the movie and being quite smitten.

Billy Joel – Just The Way You Are
from The Complete Hits Collection: 1973-1997

I’m strangely ambivalent about Billy Joel. If you asked me if I liked Billy Joel, I’d probably shrug and say something like, “He’s OK.”

But when I do hear one of his songs, I’m surprised at how often I pause, mentally list his songs in my head, and realize that the guy does have some truly fantastic tracks in his catalog. The smooth Just The Way You Are wouldn’t be on my list of favorites by Joel, but it’s pleasant enough.

Yvonne Elliman – If I Can’t Have You
from Disco Classics

Such a phenomenon was the movie Saturday Night Fever and its accompanying soundtrack that it was one of the few albums I owned at the time. I had little interest in music in ’78, but someone had given it to me as a Christmas gift.

Of course, even though I hadn’t became interested in music, yet, I was still quite familiar with the handful of Bee Gees’ hits from Saturday Night Fever. I was also familiar with the dramatic If I Can’t Have You which, though sung by Yvonne Elliman, was penned (and produced) by the brothers Gibb.


Being Ravi

November 4, 2010

Not quite a year ago, Paloma and I took in a pair of black cats that had encamped on our eave and porch.

(at this point I am sure that Paloma would want me to – in the words of her 93-year old grandfather – “let it be known to all” that we think at least one of them was abandoned by a neighbor)

Paloma’s focus was on JuJu, the larger of the two, as she had given birth to a couple of kittens.

I spent several weeks observing Ravi, a diminutive, quiet ball of fur.

“Ravi is a freakin’ genius,” I informed Paloma.

“She’s sweet, but I think she’s a little slow.”

(madam, I hope by slow you mean freakin’ genius)

I explained to her that Ravi is quite simply the most contented creature I have ever encountered. There is not a more zen soul on this planet – not a man, woman, child, goat, Phil Jackson, Buddhist monk, or houseplant is more in harmony with its universe than Ravi.

Pick her up, sit her down somewhere else and she just settles in.

Rub her ribs and she grooves on the affection, but she doesn’t pout like the others if someone else is receiving attention.

She doesn’t whine and doesn’t beg.

She just lives and let’s live and nothing seems to trouble her…ever.

This creature has figured something out and it’s something that eludes most everyone I’ve ever known.

And I want to know what it is.

With my brain reduced to poi, my nerves jangled, and the day gig being some hybrid of Wall Street and Lord Of The Flies, here are the soothing sounds of four random tracks from a playlist I created of light rock from the early ’80s…

Hall & Oates – Wait For Me
from X-Static

Whether you listened to a lot of music in the ’80s or not, if you are old enough to have been there, you likely know (or would recognize) a good number of songs by Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List, Private Eyes, Maneater

And twenty-five plus years later, the stuff holds up and seems to have earned a measure of belated respect. As good as their big hits were, the duo had a lot of hits that seem to have been forgotten a bit – Did It In A Minute and Family Man come to mind – that were pretty fantastic.

I’d put Wait For Me on that list, too.

Toto – Make Believe
from Toto IV

I never tired of hearing Rosanna during the summer of ’82 and that following winter I’d search the radio dial just hoping to hear Africa one more time.

But the hit song from Toto IV during the autumn of ’82 – nestled between those two iconic ’80s songs – was Make Believe. I didn’t really care for it at the time, but it’s grown on me over the years.

Quarterflash – Night Shift
from Harden My Heart: The Best Of Quarterflash

Thanks to Casey Kasem I know that Quarterflash got there name from…I think it’s an Australian saying…yeah, I had to look it up. It came from an Australian slang description of new immigrants as “one quarter flash and three parts foolish.”

Though well remembered for their big hit Harden My Heart, Quarterflash also had several other hits like the manic Find Another Fool and the sultry Take Me To Heart. I don’t recall hearing the slinky Night Shift very often, but it did pop up during the summer of ’82 and is pleasant enough.

(and lead singer/saxophonist Rindy Ross had a certain appeal to us at the time)

LeRoux – Nobody Said It Was Easy
from Last Safe Place

Formed by several members of a band that had backed up Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, LeRoux would, in a later incarnation, also feature singer Fergie Frederiksen who would briefly replace Bobby Kimball as lead vocalist in Toto.

Nobody Said It Was Easy was merely there to me when it was inescapable – at least where I lived – on radio during the spring of 1982. The thing was that I could hear LeRoux and Quarterflash as well as AC/DC, Human League, Journey, Dan Fogelberg, Devo and even Kenny Rogers and Ronnie Milsap on the same Top 40 stations I was listening to at the time – sometimes in the same hour.

Like Toto’s Make Believe, Nobody Said It Was Easy is a song that I’m more fond of now than I was at the time.