Friday, March 30, 2007

A dear cat

When the tulips bloom under our peach tree, we remember our dear cat Breeze, who loved to sit among the tulips, I think because he knew that red was his color. I guess it was ten years ago now that he died, and we buried him there under the tree, and planted tulip bulbs to mark the spot.

Breeze was a very intelligent cat, who seemed to think he was a dog. He came when he was called, and vocalized a lot. He was part Himalayan, one of my sister's cat's many litters. Breeze's mother was a scruffy looking calico, but all of her kittens were spectacularly handsome. I took Breeze home with me to California in 1980 in a shoebox. He was very small and didn't mind when I put him through the x-ray. The people were a bit surprised, though, to see his skeleton on their screen.

I was living in a household with two or three other cats (and a bunch of people) at the time, and no one liked Breeze but me. He was very hungry and used to eat people's food if they left it out on the counter at night. This did nothing to help his (lack of) popularity. One time, he ate half a loaf of bread and a whole avocado. We lived on the second floor of a Victorian near Golden Gate Park. The flats were very close together, and if our next door neighbors left their window open, Breeze could jump from our bay window to their sill and go inside for an extra helping of cat food. One day, he was there next door and someone in our flat closed the window. We were sitting on the couch, unaware he was over there, when I happened to glance up and saw him jump towards our closed window. His paws grabbed at the sill, and he had the most surprised look on his face as he failed to get in, and fell down to the backyard out of sight. I ran down the stairs in a panic, but by the time I got down there, he was sauntering towards me, not a hair out of place.

Later, we moved to a larger place, he had the run of the neighborhood. He would climb up on the roof to sun himself, and he had several more places to dine. He got bigger and bigger, and with his long hair, he cut an imposing figure. He weighed about 23 pounds, I think, at his peak.

There are a lot of other memories about him, about how he lived and about how he died, but today I'll look at the tulips and remember his beauty and how people would gasp at how big and handsome he was. For certain people, especially those who did't like cats, or were allergic, he would approach and circle their legs, looking for a pet. If you gave it to him, he would say "twww-eerpp" and flick his ears back and forth and start purring his deep rough contentment.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cleaning out

Perhaps inspired by all the motion of packing and unpacking at Robert & James' (they moved to their dream house), we spent some time today clearing out our garage. Most of the stuff we got rid of was paper, magazines and old file folders from Barb's previous jobs. It's understandable that she likes to keep paper, since she is a writer and publishing is so important to her. But even she could not see the point of keeping many copies of, say, the NY Times Magazines from years ago. The articles are all online now and easily searchable.

Now we have a big stack of stuff that's ready for donation, and some room for storing the items that soon will have to be moved out of the house, in preparation for the upcoming remodel.

Yesterday, we went to hear Barack Obama speak at a rally in Oakland. The crowd was large, and the stage positioned so that only the very tall could view the stage. Holding my camera up as high as I could, I randomly snapped and viewed the results, and that way, saw him "in action". I was disappointed that he was using the time with the clearly motivated, interested and supportive audience to answer his defamers, explaining that he is "experienced enough" and that he wants to support the troops. Saying that you want to support the troops is pretty safe ground. I wish he had railed against the administration, and demanded that the troops come home.

I plan to hear as many of the candidates in person as possible before the next election. I think I am watching and listening for the one who I believe to have the charisma and vision of leadership. Someone who is more than just the political pundit. Here is a sample of the type of speech I WISH we had heard...

Sunday, March 11, 2007


A sudden reversal in temperature has caused all of the fruit trees to burst into bloom at once. The plum, cherries, and even the peach tree are all in full bloom, and the magnolia is just starting to put out leaves that will replace the glorious flowers. The daffodils are everywhere, iris are starting up, my lilac bush is pushing out buds, and the hills are suddenly green. The cold January and February held it all in abeyance, but now it's all appearing at once. Titus came and cut back our vines and plants that couldn't take the hard frosts this year, and today we went to Berkeley Horticultural and bought a trumpet vine to replace the old one. We couldn't resist some begonias, pansies and violas to brighten up the boxes on the front porch.

This week the mockingbirds returned to the neighborhood, impressing me with their full repetoire of impressions. A warbling bird with a grey crest has perked up my ears at the feeder, though I didn't get a good look at him. We even saw the first hummingbird down at the park this week, sitting quietly on a treebranch, as if exhausted from his long migratory trek. Too tired to flit and hum! Soon, I hope he'll be visiting our new vine.

We turned the clocks ahead early this year, and it seems absolutely appropriate timing to me. Why not push ahead into the spring and extend the evening with this perfectly lovely weather?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

House of Memories

This lovely house, located in LeRoy, N.Y., the "home of JELL-O", is for sale. It is described as

Single Family Property
Year Built: 1850
4 total bedroom(s)
4 total bath(s)
2 total full bath(s)
2 total half bath(s)
9 total rooms
Approximately 3424 sq. ft.
Type: Historic
Dining room, Kitchen, Den
Hardwood floors
2 fireplaces
Fireplace features: Artificial, Wood burning
2 car garage
Heating features: Gas, Hot water, Steam
Interior features: 1st floor laundry, Attic insulation, Basement insulation, Ceiling fan, Ceramic floors, Circuit breakers, Copper plumbing, Den/Study, Dishwasher, Disposal, Dryer, Eat-In kitchen, Formal dining room, Foyer/Entry hall, Full basement, Gas oven, Gas water heater, Library, Master bath, Microwave, Pantry, Refrigerator, Resilient floors, Walkout basement, Wall insulation, Wall to wall carpet, Washer, Window blinds, Workshop, 4 bedroom(s) on 2nd floor, Full attic
Exterior features: Barn/Out building, Blacktop driveway, Cable avail, Detached garage, Open porch, Partially fenced yard, Public connected water, Sewer connected
Approximate lot is 133x180
Approximately 0.55 acre(s)
Lot size is between 1/2 and 1 acre

I happen to know a few things about it, that, strangely, are not mentioned in the realtor's listing. The "garage", for one thing, is really a barn or a carriage house. It has a lovely upstairs "bonus room", which you have to access via a ladder, with a very old wooden plank floor. This attic is a great place to hide out, contemplate the leaves of the nearby chestnut tree, smoke cigarettes, play basketball and fling oneself out onto the gravel driveway because the hoop is located right above the open loft door. There are some old peach trees in the backyard that never produce any fruit but have lovely sticky gum that oozes out of the bark in the spring and can be chewed like juicy fruit, but watch out for the ants. There is a room in the basement of the house that once was a hiding place for runaway slaves. Push away the spider webs in the room under the living room. The stone walls down there show the traces of a wall that used to be there, protecting them from prying eyes. They could probably live off of the jars of preserves kept down there.

There is also a secret room under the steeple, accessible from a little panel in the wall of the attic (a good place to hide marbles and other valuables). Be careful in that room, because you could fall through the unfinshed floor and put your foot right through the ceiling in the upstairs hallway. There are beautiful glass doors that divide the dining room from the entrance hall. If your brother is chasing you around the house, be sure not to let him slam that glass door closed just before you round the corner, or you could end up with a scar on your forehead for life.

Be sure to look in the den for old copies of National Geographics, which show scenes and peoples from all around the world. They are sure to inspire you to travel and learn other languages. The fireplace in the den is also prone to having birds' nests in it - be sure to look up the flue before lighting any fires in there. That's the chimney that Santa uses, too, so keep it clean in December.

The best feature in the house is the lead-pipe communication system that connects the kitchen to the master bedroom. Blow really hard on the mouthpiece of the pipe in the master closet. It will whistle in the kitchen. Once the person in the kitchen whistles back, you lift the mouthpiece and yell into the pipe, which transmits your message immediately to the ear of the listener in the kitchen. This is useful for trading insults or making threats that might be punishable if said in front of your parents.

Be sure to always refer to this house as the "Brooks house", instead of the "Stevenson house". We lived there from 1956 to 1968, and deserve to be memorialized in this fashion. Please take care of the forsythia bushes. If you crawl underneath them and dig, you might find lots of hidden treasure buried in cigar boxes.