- Point Arena's Zombie Ordinance
- Metro Station
- Walmart Stickup
- Water Use Up
- Glenn Burke
- Catch of the Day
- Philo Produce
- Do the Job
- Public Toilets
- Six Californias
THE POINT ARENA CITY COUNCIL, always on civil society's cutting edge, has just passed an “urgent” ordinance (without the usual 90 day posting) to authorize the cops to immediately round up the drunks and stoners infesting PA's mean streets. Leaving nobody after nightfall? Take the stoners and the drunks out of Point Arena and we're talking Ghost City.
A POINT ARENA old timer, though, says the town, especially after dark, can resemble The Night of the Living Dead. “I no longer go there at night except to see the occasional movie but it can be really, really creepy, especially when it's foggy — it's like something out of a scary movie. When I moved here many years ago, PA still had the Air Base with about 200 airmen and their families, the bowling alley which had both adult and youth leagues as well as a bar and snack bar, the funky bar/restaurant down at the pier which was really good, an Italian restaurant and bar, a steakhouse restaurant and bar, a diner/soda fountain. The only one that remains, the Sign of the Whale (the old Point Arena Hotel) once had an outstanding French menu as well as great bands several times a month. Except for the Whale and the theater, all these places are gone and most people stay home at night watching TV (PA had virtually no TV until the 1990s) or playing on their computers. It's very sad. The town is now left to the mentally unbalanced, a lot of them tweakers, who live on disability and roam the streets at night.”
IN A STATION OF THE METRO
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.
MAN ROBS UKIAH WALMART WITH GUN
Suspect still at large
The Ukiah Police Department is asking for the public's help in locating a man suspected of robbing Walmart in Ukiah at gunpoint Friday evening. According to the UPD, officers responded to the store on Airport Park Boulevard around 7:50 p.m. July 11 when it was reported that a man had robbed the store and left. The suspect had reportedly waited in line at the Customer Service Counter, and when it was his turn, he showed the clerk a firearm and demanded money. He was given an undisclosed amount of cash, then he ran outside and across the parking lot toward Applebee's. Assisted by the California Highway Patrol, officers searched the area for the suspect and briefly detained someone who was determined to not be involved. Witnesses were contacted, including one who reported seeing the suspect get into the passenger seat of a beige or tan, 1990s model, four-door Nissan Sentra before it drove away. The suspect is described as a white or Hispanic in his mid-30s who was wearing sunglasses and a round-brimmed, western style hat. The suspect was believed to be wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pants, dark shoes, and dark gloves. UPD detectives have examined evidence and contacted witnesses, and are currently investigating leads towards identifying a suspect. Anybody with any information is asked to call the UPD at 463-6262.
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
STATE WATER BOARD SAYS Californians have increased water consumption this year despite the drought, despite the governor's pleas to save water, despite Central Valley farms left fallow, despite rapid depletion of state reservoirs. The State Water Resources Control Board released the updated results from a water-use survey that said overall consumption had risen 1%, even as Gov. Jerry Brown has called for a 20% cutback. The report corrected survey results released just a month ago that said use statewide had declined by 5%. Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus made it clear the water situation borders on dire. “Not everybody in California understands how bad this drought is … and how bad it could be,” she said. “There are communities in danger of running out of water all over the state.” She said the Board will consider other steps if the $500-a-day fines being considered Tuesday don't work. Those could include requiring water districts to stop leaks in their pipes, which account for an estimated 10% of water use, stricter landscape restrictions and encouraging water agencies to boost rates for consumers who use more than their share of water.
THE LOCAL ANGLE. With the news that Glenn Burke will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it is unlikely to be mentioned that he once had a Boonville boyfriend, circa the late 1970s. It was no secret then that Burke was gay, and Burke didn’t try to keep it a secret. The Dodgers went so far as to offer him a big pot of money if he would marry a woman. Any woman. When he said he wouldn’t, the Dodgers traded him to Oakland where Billy Martin publicly described Burke as a “faggot.” It wasn't long before Burke was out of baseball, probably pro sports most backwards-thinking ball game.
SOMEHOW BURKE had met Boonville’s dashing school superintendent, Gerald DeFreeze, a handsome, athletic man with whom it seemed that half the women in The Valley were infatuated. Burke became a frequent Boonville visitor who wowed local kids with his standing stuffs on Gene Waggoner’s outdoor basketball court. I don’t remember it even occurring to anyone that either Burke or DeFreeze might be gay, and it was always exciting to see the affable Burke, a famous ballplayer, around town. DeFreeze moved on, got sick from AIDS and died. Burke had a much rougher road that included drug addiction, prison and a homeless death on the streets of San Francisco from AIDS at age 42.
CATCH OF THE DAY, July 15, 2014
JORDAN AUBREY, Ukiah. Felony possession of a controlled substance, providing false ID to a police officer, under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of a device for smoking or injecting, probation revoked.
RICHARD BURNS, Cloverdale. Misdemeanor driving under the influence.
RICARDO GARCIA, Ukiah. Felony threats to inflict death or great bodily injury, court order violation.
DENNIS HOAG, Ukiah. Under the influence of a controlled substance, probation revoked.
JACOB HOPKINS, Ukiah. Public intoxication of alcohol, probation revoked.
DOUGLAS KENYON, Willits. Felony burglary from a motor vehicle, petty theft with prior theft conviction, suspended/revoked drivers license, probation revoked.
LUCY LINCOLN, Covelo. Felony receiving stolen property.
LORETTA MURPHY, Maricopa, Arizona. Felony domestic violence, driving with a suspended license.
MICHAEL NORTH, California. Probation revoked.
TED PALMER, Ukiah. Possession of drug paraphernalia, probation revoked.
BOBBY SOSSAMAN, Willits, Driving with a suspended license, failure to pay (two counts), probation revoked.
CHRISTOPHER WEST, Ukiah. Misdemeanor battery (no photo).
THIS WEEK AT BLUE MEADOW FARM: Cherry, Early Girl & Heirloom Tomatoes; Gypsy, Corno di Toro, Bell Peppers; Jalapeños, Anaheim, Poblano & Padron Chilis; Rosa Bianca, Beatrice & Galine Eggplant; Zucchini & Patty Pan Squash; Basil, Strawberries, butter Lettuce, Sunflowers, Zinnias, Marigolds — Blue Meadow Farm, 3301 Holmes Ranch Road, Philo, CA 95466. 707 895-2071
CITY STAFF SHOULD GET TO WORK
To the Editor:
It doesn't seem that anyone at City Hall is capable of making a plan or a decision. They are constantly hiring consultants to do their jobs for them. The City Manager and all of the department heads need to step up and make plans and decisions, because that is what we are paying you for. On the other hand, maybe we should just do away with all of you high paid wafflers and hire consultants to run the city's business.
During the 21 years I was employed by the City, working in the field, I don't recall the word "consultant" being tossed around at all. People working there made the decisions, not always good ones, but they made them never the less.
These days, it seems like hardly a decision can be made without spending money on an outside consultant to tell City Hall what to do.
Get with it! Either do the job you are being paid big bucks to do, or get out and let someone who can make a plan and a decision, do the job for which they are being paid.
Robert Kiggins, Ukiah
ON-LINE STATEMENT OF THE DAY
REGARDING SAN FRANCISCO'S latest experiment to try to prevent people from using the streets as bathrooms: “For those who say there should just be public toilets available on the streets, please realize this has been tried and it didn't work. People damaged and vandalized the toilets, and used them for sex and camping out in, unbelievable as that sounds. We just have too many indecent people in SF for public toilets to be available to them. In fact, even in places where the folks are mostly decent, where the toilet users are not homeless, mentally ill, or drug addicts, I am often quite disgusted at how supposedly normal folks treat public bathrooms. Toilet left unflushed, or unflushed PLUS huge wad of toilet paper in it that looks like about 1/2 a roll, urine on the toilet seat, urine on the floor, toilet paper all over the floor, feces smeared on the wall...you name it. And this is in places that DON'T have a problem with street people using their toilets all the time. So just imagine this about 10-100 times worse when homeless do use that toilet regularly.”
COULD CALIFORNIA BE SPLIT INTO SIX?
Billionaire's plan to divide the Golden State gets enough signatures to make it onto 2016 ballot
Venture capitalist Tim Draper, 55, says the Golden State is too large to govern efficiently, and that people living there would be better served by a more localised government.
The technology investor has proposed splitting the state into six: San Diego and Orange County would become South California, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara would make up West California, the Sacramento area would be known as North California, and Bakersfield, Fresno and Stockton would make up Central California.
Mr Draper, a founder of a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that has invested in Twitter, Skype and Tesla, among other companies, has been agitating for months for a ballot initiative to chop the most populous US state into smaller entities.
'It’s important because it will help us create a more responsive, more innovative and more local government, and that ultimately will end up being better for all of Californians,” said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the campaign.
“The idea … is to create six states with responsive local governments — states that are more representative and accountable to their constituents.
'Salazar said Monday that the campaign had gathered more than the roughly 808,000 signatures needed to place the measure on the November, 2016 ballot.
Draper and other supporters plan to file the signatures with California Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Tuesday.
But the plan has raised bipartisan hackles across the state, and opponents say it stands little chance of gaining voter approval.
One state, to be called Silicon Valley, would include the tech hub along with the San Francisco Bay Area. Jefferson, named after the third US president, would encompass the northernmost region.
The state capital of Sacramento would be in North California, while South California would be made up of San Diego and the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles. L.A. itself would be part of a state called West California.
Were his plan to be implemented Mr Draper, who made his name, and some of his fortune, investing in Skype and Hotmail, would find himself living in the Silicon Valley state as he lives in Atherton — located between San Francisco and San Jose, and ranked number two on Forbes magazine's most expensive zip codes.
Proponents say the division would help create a more business-friendly environment, solve the state’s water issues, and ease traffic congestion.
More than 38 million people call California home, making it the most populous state in the US, and if it was to be its own country it would boast the world's eighth largest economy.
California is also the third largest state by area, taking in almost 164,000 square miles of coastline, mountain ranges, several huge cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego, and desert.
(Courtesy, the London Daily Mail)
BRUNHILDA, A FOND REMEMBRANCE
by Ken Ellis
Behind the aging Shattuck Ave. building that housed KPFA-FM in Berkeley, three years before moving to its new building on MLK Jr. Way in 1991, an elusive feline was observed sneaking around the alley, and had likely taken refuge in a complicated maze of sub-floor passageways. She was named Beverly, and she weaned a litter of six, but soon after disappeared. Alley neighbors captured and adopted four kittens, though two remained at large. The two freedom lovers were named Bradford and Brunhilda, and I began feeding them regularly, though I couldn't get close to either without being swiped at. A year or so later, grown-up Brunhilda became pregnant, and soon after had her own litter of a half dozen. Most of the new babes were caught and adopted out, but the sole escapee eventually became pregnant and had a litter of her own. The alley was filling up with cats, and some people became concerned. So, when Brunhilda became pregnant with her second litter, we managed to corral her into a cardboard box and take her to the vet for abortion and spaying. After the operation, a heavily anesthetized Brunhilda was carefully placed in a seldom used crawl space from which she later emerged none the worse for wear. She remained true to her skittish feral ways until '91, when she magically became tame enough for me alone to handle.
The method by which she was partially tamed is a highlight of her story: During regular afternoon feeding times, a pattern was established in which she and brother Bradford would seek me out in my workshop and call for me, which became my cue to fill the community dishes that resided just outside the back door, beneath a small work table. Brunhilda would often affectionately rub her neck against a leg of the table in joyful anticipation of being fed, which eventually gave me an idea: With her back turned toward me, my tricky move would be to deftly introduce my fingers next to the leg so as to seamlessly scratch her neck as she eased on past. After a few false starts, I finally timed it just right, and she enjoyed the human touch more than expected. After that bit of ice was broken, she rapidly let down her guard, trusting me enough to sit in my lap and soak in all of the affections I could lavish. Her big attitude change pleased me very much, so I crowed about it to my co-workers. It took three years to get there, but it was well worth the wait. But then, it also meant that I had TWO cats counting on me.
Back at the apartment awaited my first kitty love, Bill, who adopted me in '85. I never enjoyed a cat companion before, and didn't know much about them. One neighbor often referred to Bill as “Bad Cat,” but I never asked why, dismissing it as her own irrational prejudice to be tactfully ignored. Needing good company, I lured Bill in with tunafish, which he relished with gusto. At his moment of finally placing his trust in me, I was idly lying down with both hands under my head. To my surprise, Bill joined me up on the bed, laid on his back, and rested his head in my left armpit. What an image! If only I had been prepared to do a selfie. Soon he was asleep and snoring real loud, so I stayed there as long as I could, not wanting to break the spell created by the fresh bond.
Years later, I dreaded the possibility of Bill responding nastily to the introduction of a new cat, but Brunhilda simply could not be abandoned on Shattuck Ave when the station moved. She had to be brought home, no matter how traumatic the change. If rancor was inevitable, then all I could do was hope that their differences would eventually smooth over.
Come Brunhilda's great moving day onto Bill's turf, we arrived to the scene of a crime that occurred while I was at work. In broad daylight, a daring thief climbed onto the roof of the unoccupied first floor and got into my second story apartment via an open window, passing half of my electronic gear down to an accomplice below, none of which was ever recovered. I was quite miffed, but Brunhilda had to be taken care of. So, as previously planned, I scooted her past the little door to a crawl space that ran clear around the apartment, where a lot of space awaited to be explored. I hoped that a solid week in spacious isolation would make it clear that this was to be her new residence, rendering it a lot less likely that she would try to escape back to her old Shattuck Ave pad, spartanly furnished as it was with little better than brick walls, a cement walkway, and a few dumpsters.
My cautious calculation was based on an experience 20 years previous, while residing and working in a boat yard on Cape Cod. My parents in a nearby town were going on vacation and needed someone to take care of our dog, so I volunteered to take Blacky to the Cape for the week. When I let him outdoors in the morning to roam about, he got a bit confused and wandered away while I was eating breakfast. After determining that he really was missing, I drove around for three hours before spotting a very soaked doggy heading north towards the Canal. I put 2+2 together and figured out that he really was trying to walk home, but got soaked while fording a nearby marshy creek. He was going in the right direction, but never would have made it home, considering that he was already a dozen years old and a bit worse for wear. As I pulled alongside and called him, he looked very happy to see his old friend. I opened the door and he jumped in, lavishing me with dog kisses. I was so glad to have him back in one piece that I let him give me all the yucky dog kisses he wanted. Back at the boat yard, I found a long piece of rope and tied him up for fear that he might try to walk home again, though I later suspected that he probably learned a big lesson the hard way, and never would have been so foolish again. But, who can say for certain?
On the basis of that experience, I wanted Brunhilda to become well enough acquainted with her new home that I wouldn't have to worry that her instinct to return to Shattuck Ave would override the attraction of the pleasures of her new situation. So, after that week of orientation, the door to her sanctuary was finally opened permanently in order to entice her out into the apartment, but also into the conflict zone of Bill's territory.
As expected, Bill and Brunhilda greeted each other with lots of growling and hissing, and it was quite difficult to get Bill accustomed to sharing me with another cat. In fact, Bill resented the transition so much that he started spending more and more time away from home. Fortunately for him, he was such a charmer that it took him little time to find other households willing to lavish him with exclusive attention. But, it probably wasn't as likely that he would be treated to tunafish, so he would often follow me after spotting me walking back home from my daily three-block trip to the local Post Office branch. Eventually, however, on those increasingly rare occasions that our paths crossed, he often proved too disinterested to follow me home for his favorite dish. But, I did figure out where his new family lived, and I sometimes took a short hop up his driveway to see if he was around. An invitation to follow me home for some tuna would occasionally do the trick.
Before Bill started spending so much time away, yet another cat entered the picture for a couple of months, and he was named Boris. Very friendly, and no one could figure out where he came from. Naturally, I began to feed him, and he took no time at all to become another member of the family. I had never met a more gregarious cat, and even Bill had little trouble accepting him, mysteriously enough.
Some of the favorite parts of my little life occurred while setting out on my daily walk to the Post Office. Bill often followed me halfway down the block before heading up a driveway to follow the rear fence line back home. After Brunhilda joined up with us, and when hostilities with Bill had sufficiently simmered down, the two kitties (while keeping a respectable distance from one another) would often follow me halfway down the block, which very much enhanced the experience. I would often look behind me to marvel at the sight of being followed by TWO cats, not just one, boosting satisfaction with life in general. A little later, imagine being followed down the street by THREE cats. After Boris joined us, it was almost like being backed up by my own army, or fan club. It was definitely one of the better days of my life, but I don't recall enjoying the company of all three for more than that one single time.
One big problem with Boris was that he had a major flea problem, and I didn't know how to handle it (the way I do now with the affordable, effective, and tolerable nitenpyram). Another problem was that he had a bad habit of waiting for me to fall asleep, and then curling his body around my head, giving me lots of fleas in the process. Plus, I'd often wake up with his claws partly buried in my scalp, not the best sensation imaginable.
So, what with all of the other things that were going on at the time, I decided that it was time for Boris to find another home, so I dropped him off at the shelter, but never felt right about it afterwards. If only I had found an effective flea control in those early internet days, Boris would have made a fine addition to the family for many more years. But, those fleas were like the straws that broke the camel's back, sadly enough. Thereafter, we were down to Brunhilda as a full-time bosom buddy, and Bill as a fading part-timer.
Around Thanksgiving of '97 came a phone call that would spell “The End” to my 23-plus year “vacation” on the west coast, and usher me back east. The big change wasn't totally unanticipated, as my parents were in their 80s, and their health wasn't getting any better. Mom had just suffered another heart attack, Dad got diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and they needed help running the household. As much as I enjoyed living out west, I couldn't say that the elements of my living situation were really tying me down, so I agreed to yank up my tenuous roots, head east, and see things through.
So, as plans matured, it appeared as though the move could be accomplished around New Year's, a five-day trip in a small U-Haul van. The only big question that couldn't be answered satisfactorily was: What to do about Brunhilda?
Bill seemed happy enough with his situation, so I was content to allow his new relationships endure. Brunhilda, on the other hand, had to move east with me at some point, and could easily have been included on the ride if there had been a suitable place to house her on the east coast, but nearly every one of my relatives was allergic to cats, especially my ailing father, whose health could not be further compromised by exposure to a cat, felines having been his lifelong allergy instigator.
In hindsight, maybe she could have been brought along anyway, boarding her at a local cat shelter until a better arrangement could be made. But, that option never occurred to me, and I could think of no better plan than to leave her with my next-door Berkeley neighbor to feed until I could someday return to pick her up. Her freedom to run about in her own familiar neighborhood was probably better than being caged up for who-knows-how-long, what with her inability to relate to any other human. Rotting in jail for no crime at all could be considered more cruel than idly awaiting my return in the comforts of her usual environs.
So, for better or worse, leaving her behind was the final decision, and I was very lucky to have good neighbors who were willing to feed her for an indeterminate period. Come the day of departure, it was quite difficult to tear myself away from the neighborhood, knowing that it would be months before seeing Brunhilda again, if ever, for one never knows what fate has in store.
Such a feeling of dreadful emptiness overcame me as the familiarity of the local streets succumbed to the icy indifference of the open road. Sprawling casually on the top step, watching me drive off, Brunhilda had no idea that she would not be seeing me for months to come, and the thought tore me apart. She must have wondered why I didn't reappear at the end of the day, or even the next day. Plus, she would have had to get used to not being fed in the usual way, as well as suffer a likely complete absence of her favorite chicken treats.
The east coast was achieved on schedule in early January. The family was glad to have me back, and no shortage of work greeted me as well. Work would prove to be the story of my life for the next several months, as my father's grip on life grew ever more tenuous, and the amount of care escalated. In the middle of April, the grim reaper suddenly arrived to carry Dad away, but it wasn't very long before life settled down into a new routine with Mom as the focus. Because she was the only other family member who was not allergic to cats, it meant that I would be able to run out west to pick up Brunhilda, so plane tickets were obtained for a trip in early June. My kind neighbors were pleased to receive that bit of news, as their patience was wearing a bit thin, as can be imagined. Mere words of thanks could not suffice to compensate for their generous and selfless help freely donated for those many months.
After deplaning, I rented a car and zipped over to the old apartment, by then newly rented out to a student. Brunhilda was making herself scarce, however, even after I patiently called out the usual “yoo-hoo” several times.
On the significance of “yoo-hoo”: After moving in with me in '91, she eventually became quite accustomed to being hailed by a yoo-hoo or two upon my return from work, and it actually became the only phrase she ever learned to SPEAK, difficult to believe as that might seem. “Hah! A talking cat? Prove it!” Sadly, the idea of having a tape recorder out and running no more occurred to me than it would have occurred to anyone else, as the probability of encountering a talking cat is about as likely as being struck by lightning on a sunshiny day. Anyway, as I pulled up to my staircase that day, I noticed that my other nextdoor neighbor, George (who wrote for the Berkeley Barb decades before), was out and about, so we stood on the sidewalk discussing the day's politics, Brunhilda soon joining us, circulating about our legs. Suddenly, my train of thought was shattered by a feline version of “yoo-hoo,” knocking my socks off. George happened to be concentrating on a political point at that moment, so he denied hearing her distinctive short speech. But, I was so taken aback that I looked around for a human culprit, but none was found, so only Brunhilda could have said it.
Back to the story: Since Brunhilda was still making herself scarce, I decided to walk the short block to my neighbor's abode and check in. Sue had previously invited me to crash at her converted garage during my brief stay in town, and it worked out perfectly, as it was easily within Brunhilda's range of skulking about. She could easily hoof it between my new temporary digs and her usual haunts, either by “back roads,” or via the sidewalk, eliminating any fear of getting lost. Before leaving the east coast, a small plastic baggie of chicken scraps had been prepared for her enjoyment, as that was her favorite treat by far, being reason enough to sometimes playfully refer to her as “chickenpuss.”
So, as I walked back to my old apartment, I had that little bag of treats with me, ready for deployment. This time, it didn't take her long to come out of hiding after hearing another salvo of yoo-hoos. With no hesitation whatsoever, she jumped in my lap and greedily devoured all of the chicken. After a few minutes of mutual appreciation, I invited her up the street for an introduction to what I hoped she would accept as her new temporary sleeping quarters. She was game for the journey and stayed a few hours, but wanted out in the middle of the night. Getting back into the temporary digs would not be as simple as at the old apartment, where the steel grate security door enabled cats getting in and out as easy as pie throughout our entire seven-year occupancy. But, we worked around this minor problem. When it was time for her to go out, I always knew where to look for her the next day, as she never strayed far from our old apartment.
One of the goals of this brief trip was to touch base with Bill, my very first true feline love. I wanted to pay what I suspected would be my very last visit with him. The young lady who answered the door invited me in, though it took quite a few minutes to flush Bill out of one of his many hiding places, and he was not very happy about having his beauty rest disturbed. I was disappointed that he showed little interest in seeing me, so I made the most of the visit by recounting some of the most significant “Bill” stories. He remained sitting up and at attention the whole while, as if he were paying attention. Finally it was time to say good-bye, so I bestowed many thanks for taking such good care of Bill, who received a final good-bye caress. As much as I wished we could always live in the same neighborhood, he had habituated very well to his newest arrangement, and wouldn't miss me a bit. Ah, felinity: often so pragmatic and unsentimental.
My mission to the west was coming to an end, thanks and goodbyes were liberally conferred, and the time was nearing to get Brunhilda into her under-the-seat carrier for the trip, a long adventure I dreaded embarking upon, for I fully expected problems. First of all, she was a one-man cat, and based on long experience I knew that she would be upset if approached by other humans, and close approaches could not be avoided during the flight. Secondly, I suspected that many hours confined in a small jail was bound to complicate things. Thirdly, what about food and water? The lid to the carrier would have to be opened to serve her, and she would likely take any opportunity to jump out of her cramped prison, making me hope, perhaps unrealistically, that she could withstand seamless confinement for the entire journey.
The rental car was loaded up, and the final act was to cage Brunhilda. To make sure that the act had a fighting chance of succeeding, there could be no previous rehearsal. This caper had only a single chance in a lifetime in succeeding, and the element of surprise did the trick. When she quickly became aware of what happened, it was already too late to protest. With a sigh of relief, it was then time to get ourselves through the airport and onto the plane. The airline was advised of our grand plan, so there was no hassle at the luggage check-in. But, the next step was the security check-in, and the guard wanted to see what was in the cat carrier, perhaps as in: “How many guns in the box?” I carefully explained more than once that Brunhilda was half wild and would seize upon any little opportunity to escape, but the guard was adamant in his insistence that the carrier be opened. Not being aware of any other options, and not wanting to hold up the line, I relented and unlatched the carrier.
Well, it was like an explosion occurred. Brunhilda disappeared SO FAST that I couldn't even tell which way: Further into the gate? Or, back towards the entrance? Witnesses observed that she fled toward the boarding area, so I searched for half an hour, but not a trace could be found, in spite of the seeming complete absence of hiding places. It was then closing in on boarding time, and people on the east coast were counting on me to return and resume my duties. It was impermissible to miss that plane, no matter how much I wanted to stay put and catch kitty. So, with a heavy heart, I reported the problem to customer service, and was favorably impressed by the kind-hearted personnel, whose reassurances considerably allayed my fears. As the plane finally got rolling on the tarmac, I kept my eyes peeled out the window, watching for a streak of gray scampering about, which certainly would have meant that all had been lost, so I was very thankful that she was nowhere to be seen.
After take-off, worrying about her welfare weighed heavily on my spirits. Finally we landed, and I told my family of the botched mission: I went out west to retrieve Brunhilda, but came back empty-handed, and was left with heartache and resignation to complete loss. Unexpectedly, however, the airline called two days later. Food was used to lure her out of hiding, and then she got trapped, though they didn't say how. She was placed on a flight that was due to land at Providence, Rhode Island. My instruction was to report to the baggage area and Brunhilda would be brought out to me.
Wow, hot dog! That bit of news lifted my spirits. So, with a small cat carrier in hand, I arrived early, checked in, and paced the floor a bit. Soon I was alerted by the distant calling of what could only have been a cat, though I could not detect where the calls were coming from. Looking around in every direction, I finally noticed, as far as perhaps a hundred or more yards away, an officially dressed airline employee approaching with a large dog crate fit for a Labrador Retriever. I initially dismissed it as a false alarm, for it was much too big for a little gray kitty. But, as the crate came closer, the calls grew louder, and I suspected that indeed Brunhilda was inside. The official put the carrier down beside me and told me to take Brunhilda away, though I offered to transfer her into my own little carrier. The offer was refused, as the airline did not want to take any chances that she might bolt away again. The official also informed me of a problem they had with my dear cat-daughter. Every time personnel opened the crate door to offer a morsel, she reacted quite violently and drew blood, the little ingrate. The airline never wanted to see her again, and they probably weren't too sure about me, either, I could imagine.
So, there we were, delighted to be united again. Out at the car, I positioned her crate in the passenger seat so we could see one another during the trip home. Out on the freeway, and enjoying a more or less free right hand, I stuck a finger through the grating so as to protrude into her space. She immediately turned herself around in order to press up against my finger, so happy was she to finally be back with her true love. We remained positioned that way for the rest of the trip. Aside from knowing but just a few details of her most recent adventure, the biggest mystery remains unsolved: How did she detect my presence from such a long distance away? It didn't seem possible that she could figure out that I was there to pick her up, what with all of the noise, and with so many other people milling about.
To make sure that nothing could go wrong, I kept her in the carrier until we were down in the cellar. The crate was opened to invite her to roam around and check out her new digs. In no time at all, she did her own exploring, seeking out nooks and crannies where she could hide if a 'dangerous' situation ever arose. And there were a few, as most of my nieces and nephews and their kids wanted to see Brunhilda (if they could), but everyone who approached her was snubbed, and all friendly advances firmly rebuffed as she made herself so scarce that half the time not even I could figure out where she was hiding, especially on those rare occasions when a stranger would enter the cellar. And that's as elusive as she was for the rest of her life. Always a one man cat, extremely so.
As time went along, she became more and more comfortable in her new home. I was doing a lot of work in the cellar and yard, so we had many opportunities to re-cement our old bonds. The great outdoors would certainly be attractive to her, so the bulkhead door was often left open so that she could follow me outside. At first, she was very nervous about leaving the safety of the cellar, so she would only climb to the top of the stairs to follow me around with her eyes. But, it was only a matter of time before summoning the courage to follow me around for real, and have fun being goofy and climbing trees.
I also wanted her to be able to sleep on my bed at night and re-establish as many of our old habits as possible so I carved a little hatch out of the wooden floor of my bedroom's closet, plus built a system of catwalks down below so that she could easily pass between the cellar and my bedroom, which worked out splendidly. Then she could easily resume her practice of nosing under the blankets in order to snuggle next to my chest, where she would often remain for several hours at a time. I always marveled at how she could breathe under the covers, but she slept there so often that breathing couldn't have been much of an issue.
I also wanted her to be able to get indoors and out at will, so I hammer-drilled a big round hole through the cellar wall, lined the hole with an eight-inch clay pipe, and installed rubber flaps on each end in order to keep the cold winter air out, while letting her easily nose her way past the flaps. After that, she only needed to use her litter box during those very few times per year when she didn't feel quite up to braving whatever rain or snowstorms were raging outside. Still, it was amazing the number of times she would come home soaking wet, as if she didn't have the sense to come in out of the rain. But, being in or out was always entirely her own personal choice. She was free.
Everything went well for the next few years. But, early in 2005, Mom had a heart attack that proved fatal. I was sorry that the two girls had never been able to establish a decent relationship, but Brunhilda was much too skittish to be able to associate closely with anyone except me. The highlight of their relationship must have been those few times Brunhilda would cautiously pluck a piece of chicken from Mom's outstretched hand. That was as close as they ever got.
Thereafter, it was down to Brunhilda and me, which was a far cry from the original intent of my father, who built our house in '54 with his own two hands for the benefit of our nuclear family of four. But, life means change, and even Brunhilda in 2005 was beginning to show signs of trouble. The vet diagnosed her with the beginning stages of renal failure, apparently a common problem for aging cats. Options were laid out, none of which could have been expected to extend her life much beyond the 17 years she'd already put on, many of her earliest years in sub-par living conditions. Rather than make any big decision on the spot, I took the list of options home for further study. Then I explored homeopathy for good kidney remedies, and they worked well for the next four months.
But, her biological clock started running low again, so I reluctantly made her final appointment with the vet. They made the euthanasia as painless as possible for the two of us. After the vet left us to savor our final moments together, and I felt her body heat vanish, I burst into a torrent of tears that took me by complete surprise, and which simply could not be held back, but the likelihood of which the vet profession no doubt was well aware of, as I had earlier been given the option to leave unnoticed via a back door. And so it went.
How I missed my little gray kitty for the rest of that summer. The loneliness got so bad that I knew that I had to do something real about it. One day in September, I noticed an offer of free kittens on a supermarket bulletin board. So, I made a call and soon had an orange male who looked a lot like Bill. Ahab was only six weeks old, and he did a whole week of hiding out until figuring out that living with me wasn't the worst thing in the world, so he started socializing. At eight weeks, he clawed his way onto my bed one morning and uttered a digital sounding gibberish straight into my ear. I could not believe what I was hearing. It was almost like some kind of new-age avant-garde musical composition. Ahab has been my heart's delight ever since, helping me to get over whatever misfortunes that inevitably occasionally arise. But, can one ever stop appreciating the true kitty loves who came before? I wouldn't want to try.