Category Archives: Cats

That Old Kitten Spirit

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My BFF, Buster Kitty, passed away this fall.  He died suddenly, and unexpectedly, from what we believe to be a common heart problem that plagues cats.  We came home from a day trip and found his body at the base of the stairs.  It was unspeakably horrible.  If I never go through anything that awful again, ever in my life, I will count myself fortunate.

Ten years ago, when Tybalt, the Black Death, my Buddha Cat, was on his last legs, I discovered that in the 18 years I’d known him, I had somehow forgotten to live without a cat.  And that’s when Buster Kitty entered my life.  When Buster Kitty unexpectedly shuffled off his mortal coil, I remembered that I had forgotten how to live without a cat.  Roy, bless his heart, said “We’ll get another cat.” meaning “We’ll get another cat in the spring”.  He’s a little slow sometimes.  He gets there, but he takes the Local Train.  He was planning to get engaged four or five years after we met, even though it was perfectly obvious from our first date forward that we were headed directly to the altar.  I had to take things into my own hands on that one as well, but that’s a different story.  Roy said “We’ll get another cat.” and all I could think was “How long do I have to be here without a cat?”

You know, unless you are hopelessly Cat Averse like my mother, that there is power in the purr of a cat.  There is no dreadful event in my life that has not been improved by a purring cat on my lap.  Or, rather, my experience of every dreadful event has been made less horrible, less weighty, less burdensome, through having a purring cat on my lap.  The sudden loss of Buster Kitty was certainly a dreadful event, and made even worse by the fact that the loss of my usual antidote to dreadful events, the purring cat, was the dreadful event itself.  It was the ultimate in Negative Synergies.

I lasted one week.  I knew quite well that Roy had some totally absurd time horizon in mind, and with the expertise of the long-married, I utterly disregarded that.  I launched a conversation with him about this Hypothetical Event of securing another cat for the house. I ran across this magnificent article that explained my perspective perfectly.  Buster Kitty occupied a completely unfillable Cat Track…but the household had at least one Cat Slot, and it was vacant, and it very badly needed to be filled.  Really.  The post I linked to there is totally worth reading. Anyway, filling the vacant Cat Slot was First Priority, for me. I wasn’t going to be having any vacant Cat Slot for months and months.  Who could stand it?  Anyway, my Cat Slot had been continuously occupied by adult cats for 28 years at this point, but suddenly, Overhead Control alerted me to the fact that the specs for the job had been changed.  My Cat Slot had been converted, without my permission, acquiescence, or agreement, into a Kitten Slot.  I don’t know why.  The decision was handed down by Top Management.

While the Cat Slot Conversion paperwork was getting processed I sounded Roy out on the topic of Multiple Cats.  Because, why not.  Starting fresh is starting fresh, and it might be interesting to have more than one.  He was not in favor.  His idea was: 1 cat.  Not 2 cats.  I hadn’t yet been alerted to the change in status on the Slot, so I was unable to obtain his feelings on the subject of Kitten.  I was pretty sure I knew what they were going to be, anyway.

Fortunately, about that time, Roy headed off for a conference.  One of his very favorite sayings is “It’s better to ask forgiveness than ask permission.”  I think this position has merit, and was fully prepared to deploy it in the face of his inevitable protest. I called a good friend to come visit me for purposes of Cat Shopping.  Or, as I understood it at the moment, Kitten Shopping.  When I was informed of the conversion of the Slot from Cat Slot to Kitten Slot, I was also informed that we had been given an extra Slot in acknowledgement of the inconvenience. So we were not shopping for one cat, we were shopping for two kittens.

Plan A was to hit several of the area shelters, meet all the kittens they had on hand, and pick from that selection after several hours of Kitten Shopping.  As they say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  Plan A was derailed pretty much instantly when I met my First Kitten, a tiny little tuxedo cat, who nestled himself in the angle between my neck and my shoulder when I picked him up, purred loudly, and then licked the end of my nose.

“Friend,” I said to my buddy, “I’m gone.”

Meanwhile, she had discovered a contender in the form of a fluffy blue kitten with more toes than whiskers, who pitched the World’s Tiniest Temper Tantrum when she did not immediately open up his cage and take him out.

“Lori,” she said, “I”m gone.”

And so it was that we set out to obtain Two Kittens, and took home the first two kittens we met.  Later that day, I spoke with Roy on the phone.  “I have a confession to make” I said. “You got a cat” he said. “No,” I said.  “You know how you’re always saying it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission?” “What. did. you. do.” he said. “Well,” I said, “We went to the animal shelter.” “But you said you didn’t get a cat” he said. “That’s right,” I said.  “I didn’t get a cat.  I got two kittens.“. Silence reigned.  “Two.” he said.  “Two…kittens.” “Yep. You’re going to love them.”  My friend had already pointed out that if Roy kicked up a dust, we’d just toss the fluffy one at him, and the kitten would work its Fluffy Kitten Magic, and that would be the end of the protests.  And that is, more or less, how it worked out.  These kittens were so unbelievably cute – even our vet, who specialized in cats, melted when I brought them in – that Roy didn’t have a Chance.  It took him more than five minutes, and less than two days.

Now we’re one bigger, happier family: me, Roy, Max, and Baxter.  Max is the fluffy blue one, who turns out to be a volunteer shoot on the Maine Coon family tree.  Baxter is the tuxedo cat.  Both are shaping fair to be enormous.  Baxter was 10 lbs at his six-month checkup, and Max wasn’t very far behind. I’m told that Maine Coons take a long time to grow into their full magnificence, though.

Now the kittehs are sad.

I have a hanging sculpture in my bay window. It has a big swarovski cut-crystal ball hanging from it. Around 4pm at this time of the year the sun is at exactly the right angle to shine through the crystal, which puts dozens of rainbow-colored dots on the wall. If I give the sculpture a spin, the dots chase around the room. It’s like having 50 laser pointers, all going at once, in a seemingly random pattern on the living room walls, furniture, and the hallway stairs. It’s not random, I’m sure there’s a mathematical equation that perfectly describes it, and I bet my friend my kitten-shopping buddy the physicist could tell me what that equation is. But to the kittehs, it’s like having hundreds of multicolored mice racing randomly EVERYWHERE.

Kittehs learned very quickly that Mama Makes The Sparkle Dots Dance. Now they congregate in the living room around 4pm, with expectant looks on their little furry faces. I don’t know what it is about their looks that’s expectant. I just know it is. They see me coming and they want me to make the Sparkle Dots.

It has been cloudy for the last five days in a row. We’re in the throes of mud season, and it’s sleeting, snowing, raining, and just generally depressing and gloomy without being attractively atmospheric, like it is in the fall.  It’s just grim.  Mud Season.  End of Ski Season. Something to endure.  Thank heavens for the Sugar Shacks, because they’re the only thing that makes life worth continuing to live for the six weeks it goes on.

No sun = no Sparkle Dots.  On top of swimming through puddles on the sidewalk everywhere, on top of random warnings of three inches of nasty, useless, wet snow, on top of the crushing of the spirits that comes with the end of ski season…I have to disappoint my kittens every. single. day.  They don’t understand the pivotal role of the sun in the Sparkle Dot picture.  They just know Mama has the Sparkle Dot Magic, and refuses to use it.

God, please bring me a sunny afternoon.  I can’t stand crushing the hopes of my kittens every afternoon much longer.

In a happier time:

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Jet Lag, Belongingness, and the Bad Idea Bears

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Last night, Roy and I were forced to dine out.  The fridge had been emptied of anything truly perishable in preparation for a week or so away, which meant that the only things in the house to eat were 1) an ancient frozen pizza, aka, the Iron Rations; 2) fifty different kinds of condiments; and 3) a six pack of beer.  The Iron Rations require a higher degree of desperation than we could summon.  Also, we have an amazing corner Italian joint, and Thursday is Lasagna Night.  By the time we started for dinner, we’d had a combined seven hours of sleep between the two of us in the last 36 hours, not between the two of us.  Most of that accrued to Roy, who can sleep on planes, and not to me, because I can’t.  Taking a red-eye flight is a terrible thing for someone who can’t sleep on a plane.  So, in the last thirty-six (36) hours, Roy had 5 hours of sleep, all on planes, and I’d had 2, in a nap that I forced myself to get up from mid-afternoon. In the words of Charles Dickins, “This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

Between unpacking from the trip and going to dinner, I slid in a brief visit to The Wonder Horse.  I hadn’t seen him for nine days, I cheated on him by taking a trail ride in California, and I was missing him lots.

Here is the conversation I wanted to have with him:

Me: Huey! I missed you!
Huey: I missed you too!
<various other Heartfelt Statements of Deep and Powerful emotional bonding>

Here is the conversation we actually had:

Me: Huey! I missed you!
Huey: Where’s my treat?
Me: Let me give you a horse kiss!
Huey: Where’s my treat?
Me: I want to rub your muzzle and have a fond exchange!
Huey: I want you to give me a treat.
<sigh>

So there we are, Roy and I, in the corner Italian joint getting ready for a Carb Fest, and who should show up but the Bad Idea Bears.

I know that it looks from that clip like the Bad Idea Bears are fictional entities, but I promise you, they are real.  They show up at my house all the time.  I used to think that the Bad Idea Bears only showed up for kids, and that as I gained Life Experience, they’d show up less frequently.  They might, but in general, all that has happened from all that Life Experience is that they show up with a different kind of Bad Ideas.  Used to be they’d show up with Bad Ideas like “Hey! You can ride your bike with no hands! Awesome!!  I bet you could ride your bike with your feet up on the handlebars to steer it!”  Later, they”d show up with Bad Ideas like “We’re having so much fun!  You should have another shot of tequila!”  Now they show up with Bad Ideas like “Everyone is so exhausted from the trip!  Let’s have a really deep meaningful conversation about important topics! Right now!”

That’s the one they showed up with last night.  Thank heavens, Roy and I are still crazy about each other even after more than ten years together, because if we were even a little bit marginal, the Bad Idea Bears would have said “Everyone is so exhausted from the trip!  Now would be a perfect time to talk about the relationship!” and then there would have been tears and a divorce. That’s not the case, though, and for that, I am deeply grateful.

So instead, we had a deep meaningful conversation that started like this.

Me: I have to talk to you about something important.
Roy (assembling a slightly wary look): What?
Me: The kids don’t love me.  Huey only wants to interact with me because I might give him a treat, and Buster Kitty is acting out with hostility because we’ve been gone.  He’s been attacking my feet with his claws out.
Roy: The kids do, too, love you.
Me: No, they don’t.  I love them, but they don’t love me back.

Roy had the same air that a person who has just dropped their car keys into a leech-invested murky pond at midnight gets when they start wading in to find the keys.  He wasn’t sure why I was telling him these things, because he’d only had five (5) hours of sleep in the last thirty-six (36). I told him it was because of all his Life Experience as a Parent. I felt certain that this suspicion that one’s children see one only as a vending machine of material goods is one that many parents must have encountered, and wanted some advice on navigating it.

This, fortunately, satisfied the Bad Idea Bears, who took their reign of error elsewhere.  But as long as we in deep, meaningful conversation mode, I couldn’t just leave the parenting issue there and move on to something more appropriate, like a discussion of Derek Jeter’s latest injury and the state of the Yankee’s shortstop position.  So I moved on to a topic that had actually been on my mind for a while.  The topic of “belonging” and belonging-ness.

This was all driven by the recent trip to Northern California, or as William Gibson called it, NoCal.  On paper, NoCal should fit me like a glove.  I love the climate, which offers cool summers and easy access to very skiable terrain in the winter.  It has lots of scenic, navigable riverways, perfect for kayaking.  It has beautiful hiking.  It has what I’d argue is the best dining in the nation, based on the intelligent use of superb ingredients given minimal processing.  It has loads of small, quaint, artsy villages that are perfect for exploring.  It has a progressive, educated populace.  It has all of those fabulous wineries and more than a few fantastic microbreweries.  It has scenic roads and while they aren’t safe for bicycling, being narrow, winding, and hilly, it has loads of cyclists anyway, so people drive carefully.  It has mountains and sea, both of which I love.  It has fantastic wildlife.   On paper, I should be completely and impossibly smitten with NoCal.

The reality is, though, that I enjoy the area and its amenities, it doesn’t quite fit me for some reason.  I don’t belong there.  I’m not sure why not.  I belong in Texas, although with the current state of affairs there, that belongingness feels like wearing a pair of old, battered, comfortable hiking boots but having sand in the socks.  It makes sense that I belong in Texas, because that’s pretty much where I’m from.  I also kind of belong in the South, but not as much as I belong in Texas.

Oddly, I also seem to belong in Maine.  The way Maine fits me is like the way a pair of favorite loafers fits a person…the kind of loafer that slides on and off your foot like it’s been greased, the kind of loafer where the leather is blown out a little to accommodate a bunion, the kind of loafer where the sole is worn enough to roll right along with a pronating foot but the tread is still in great condition.  I belong in Maine the way my foot belongs in my ten-year-old Sperry Top-Siders.  I don’t understand this at all. Maine is – literally – as far from Texas as you can get and still be in the continental US.  The landscape couldn’t be more different.  The people are not what I’m used to from home.  On paper, it should be an uncomfortable and unfamiliar milieu, yet nothing could be further from the truth.  I recognized it the first time I set foot in the region:  Maine, particularly the ocean-y bits, is some sort of Spiritual Home to me.

And yet, California was not.  The people were absolutely lovely, everything was fantastic, I had a blast…but it felt like sliding my feet into someone else’s ten-year-old Sperry Topsiders.  Right size, but blown out and worn in all the wrong spots for my foot.

So Roy and I had an utterly sleep-deprived, exhausted, jet-lagged deep and meaningful conversation about all of this, which (predictably) came to absolutely nothing.  I don’t know any more about belongingness, what drives it, why I feel that I belong some places and not others, what it is that makes me feel immediately at home in an environment versus making me feel welcome, but not at home.  I still don’t understand, and wonder if I ever will.

And Huey?  Probably he loves me for something other than just the possibility of a treat.  Probably this will all be clear once the haze from the jet lag blows away.  Probably.

Requiem for a Black Cat

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Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.

In paradisum deducant te Angeli

Nearly ten years ago, Tybalt Holder-Webb, aka The Black Death aka Buddha Cat, was laid to rest.  The angels rejoiced at his coming.

I dined tonight on Chicken With Forty Cloves of Garlic, and was transported back in time, lo, these 24 years.

At the time, I lived with an individual who we will call…Ronald.  Ronald enjoyed the fruits of my culinary labors, and no dish was more loved than the immortal Chicken With Forty Cloves.

Now, Chicken With Forty Cloves is where I discovered – before it became in vogue – the Delights of Roasted Garlic.  You can find it absolutely anywhere these days, but thirty years ago, it was Not So.  Then the advent of Chicken With Forty Cloves.  The beauty of this dish is that it’s a one-pot delicious roasted chicken that delivers a heap of roasted garlic for bread alongside…and that’s only the first night.  The second night benefits from the deployment of the carcass into a soup.   

The process is this:  throw the chicken and a bunch of herbs into a pot with 40 cloves of unpeeled garlic.  Seal the lid onto the pot with a paste and shove it into the oven.  90 minutes later, it’s Culinary Heaven all the way.  You turn the garlic cloves out of the pot into a bowl, cool them, and squish the garlic paste out and smear it on bread.  Eat until you are stuffed.

I have an immoderate love for roasted garlic and always have.  So this dish is…well…sublime.

The problem, however, is that garlic isn’t a substance you enjoy once.  You get to enjoy it at least three times.  Once as it goes down, once as it circulates through your system and perfumes your blood and thus your sweat, and finally as it makes its way back out into the world.  It reminds me of really good French cheese, that way.  Roy and I were traveling in the Loire Valley years ago and paid a visit to a farmstead where they were dishing up a rustic supper and a pageant (“un spectacle!”).  The dinner featured – in addition to one of the best red table wines I’ve ever had, and for 5 whopping euros the bottle – a log of the local chevre, a cheese for which the region is justly famed.  We were in Culinary Heaven then, too – especially with the cheese and pate – and stayed there until the next day as we traveled north in our tiny rental car.  Thirty minutes on the road, and we became aware…of…an…Odor.

Not an odor.

An Odor.

Possibly an ODOR.

I suggested we had driven close to a dairy farm, perhaps, or a feed lot.  We rolled the windows down, but it became immediately clear that the Odor did not emanate from any exterior source.

Then we considered the possibility that some small rodent had crawled into the engine and passed away.  But usually animals take a good bit longer to become quite that aromatic.

Then, as one, we arrived at the stunning conclusion that the Odor emanated from none other source but ourselves.

“Oh my God,” I said. “We’ve gone Native.”

Once we identified the origin of the Odor, the source became immediately clear:  it was the Cheese.

There could be no question.  There we were, rolling through the French countryside in a tiny rental car, reeking of Goat Cheese.

I was certain that this would cause us major problems when we hit US Customs in New York the following day.  As soon as we arrived at our resting place, I showered.  And I showered, and then I got up in the middle of the night and showered again.

Nothing helped.  Parfum Du Chevres had to run its course.  Thank heavens it had mainly done so by the time we boarded the flight, because really, I cannot conceive of the likely response of our Fellow Travelers in Coach Class to being warehoused in with us, reeking as we were.

And then, there was also the Customs issue.

Back to the Requiem.

I overindulged in the roasted garlic, as I inevitably do, because it is SO good, and woke in the night because I reeked of the stuff.

I smelled so strongly of garlic thanks to that overindulgence that I woke myself up.  Astonishing.

I lay in bed for a while, with the Black Death curled up on my chest where he preferred to sleep, thinking about what to do.  Finally, at 2am, I decided I was going to have to shower, I couldn’t take it for one more minute.

And so I sat up.

The cat, irritatable, whurrred at me as he was dislodged from his Living Pedestal.

And suddenly, I realized, I could no longer smell the garlic.

It took a moment for the penny to drop, but when it did, I grabbed the cat’s face and sniffed it long.

And nearly passed out from the garlic.

Ronald, bless his heart, was on KP that night, and had neglected to store the remaining roasted garlic.

He left the bowl of roasted garlic cloves, cloves that were covered in a layer of chicken fat, sitting out, open, on the counter.

And the cat ate every atom of that stuff right up.  And then came to bed, curled up on my chest, and spent the next hour exhaling Feline Garlic Breath directly into my nose with every purr.

What can you say to something like that?  “Get the heck off me!” is what came to my mind…

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

4 lb. roasting chicken
salt and pepper
7 T olive oil
40 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
rosemary, thyme, basil, celery top or parsley
1½ C flour
1 loaf French bread

Preheat oven to 400°.  Season cavity of chicken with salt and pepper.  Place chicken in casserole.  Drizzle olive oil to coat evenly.  Arrange cloves around chicken.  Add herbs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mix flour with just enough water to make a dough.  Roll the dough out into 1½” strip slightly longer than the casserole is round.  Place dough around the rim of the casserole and seal with the lid.  Cook 90 minutes.

Slice and toast  the bread.  When the chicken is finished, carve it into pieces and serve with the cloves of garlic (press them to make the garlic come out, then spread on the bread like butter).

Store the leftovers tightly covered in the FRIDGE.

tybalt9

The heavens rejoiced at his coming, while the angels quaked in their boots. Or, in the immortal words of one of our apartment’s maintenance men, “There’s some kind of ANIMAL in there!”

It’s A Little Bit of Everything…

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Sigh.

On Thursday, the weather is gorgeous, but Huey’s high maintenance schedule combines with my ramped up work schedule to create a situation where I just could not get my riding lesson in.  It gets postponed until Friday.

On Friday, it rains in a Biblical Way.  No riding lesson, but two trips to the barn, including one trip from the chiropractor with a cold laser, and a total of 60 cases to grade.

On Saturday, it rains in a drizzly depressing way.  No riding lesson because there local horse show series is having it’s final bang.  Two trips to the barn.

On Sunday, it spits occasionally.  Two trips to the barn.  No riding lesson because it’s Sunday and everyone is wiped from the horse show.  Wouldn’t be riding anyway, even if Huey was off the DL, because the ring is soggy beyond belief.

On Monday, it rains.  Two trips to the barn, a trip from the chiro with the cold laser, no riding lesson because it’s not scheduled until Thursday.  One walk with the horse, at the end of which he crushes my foot and makes my toes black.  And a meeting with my department head, and a departmental faculty meeting squidged in there.

On Tuesday, it rains.  Only one trip to the barn because I have to leave for work at 3 and won’t get home until 9.  Lot of limping, and even blacker toes from the Foot Of Doom.  Walkies occur in the ring because I am limping too much to go on the road.

On Wednesday, it rains.  And the barn stalls are getting power washed, which soaks the boots that I’m wrapping Huey’s legs in at night, but I don’t realized that until I come back out in the evening to do up his legs and find the boots saturated with Grade A Ook.  One trip from the chiro with the cold laser, and a meeting with the dean and a college-wide faculty meeting squidged in there.  Two trips to the barn.

On Thursday, it rains.  I laundered the boots last night but I was too brain dead yesterday to remember to take them out of the washing machine to dry.  Can’t go in the dryer, of course.  One trip to the barn, without the boots.  One trip from the equine massage therapist to work the kinks out of the parts of Huey that are getting tight and painful because he’s not been allowed to run around for a month.

I discovered, while grooming him in preparation for the arrival of the massage therapist, that he was covered in hives.  Two of which were really big.  I called the vet while the massage therapist was working on Huey, and found out that I need to give him Benadryl.  So a trip for benadryl, a trip home to pulverize the pills, and another trip back to the barn to give him the first round of the stuff.  And he’s got the runs, probably from whatever gave him the hives.  I have to call the vet again tomorrow if the benadryl doesn’t clear up the hives.  I’ve already got two trips to the barn because the chiro is coming again with the cold laser, and the usual stuff.  Oh, yeah, and I’ve got to be down in Springfield working this afternoon and tonight.

Good golly.

And senselessly, I just keep thinking “Crikey, I wish this damned rain would stop and the clouds would move off.”  I think the rest of it would be easier to surf if I could just see the bloody sky.

So today, this one is going out to Huey, and Roy, and Buster Kitty, and everyone I work with.  But especially, it’s going out to Huey.

 

I Want Jetson Technology

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I don’t mean the flying cars.  Those sound like a good idea until you stop and think about how many lousy, aggressive, and/or inattentive drivers there are on the road.  It’s bad enough that an idiot who answers a text message while powering down the road at 10 to 15 miles over the speed limit can endanger any other drivers in their vicinity.  Just think of what could happen if that same idiot was piloting a flying car while texting.  Could bring down cars in the air, cars on the road, low-flying aircraft, or could power that boat right through your bedroom window.

Or that moron that seems incapable of maintaining a consistent speed?  The one driving in the 50mph zone who slows down to 35 for no apparent reason, then speeds up to 60 and then drops back to 40 for a mile or so?  They’d still be doing that…only they’d be doing it vertically too.  Whipping along anywhere from 20 to 300 feet in the air, randomly, while slowing down and speeding up, also randomly.

No thanks.  I’ll pass on the flying cars.

I also don’t mean the food cubes that show up, get nuked, and turn into full three course dinners in the microwave.  We’ve had those for years.  They’re called TV Dinners, and when I was six years old, I thought that the little tray of mystery meat with gravy, and the separate tray of mashed potatoes, and the third tray with the cobbler were the epitome of Haute Cuisine.  Then I grew taste buds.

I would like the robot that spends all day tidying the house.  Except that it would probably bang into the furniture quite a bit, and try to make my bed when I’m taking a nap, and I can see the cat getting all excited about the opportunity to chase the thing about.  The more I think about the robotic maid, the more I think of the sound of breaking glass and china.

The notion of a robot that will play with my cat actually sounds pretty good.  The technological challenges are significant.  My cat prizes Randomness.  Any stick-and-feather game, any ball game, any catnip mouse game that becomes in the least bit predictable loses his attention immediately.  That, and he also apparently prizes the ability to draw blood.  The best option, from his standpoint, would be for me to simply provide a steady stream of actual living mice for him to chase, kill, and eat.  Buster Kitty isn’t terribly domesticated.  I, however, have some ethical obligations to procuring another animal just so that animal can be terrorized and then killed.  Which, face it, is what Buster Kitty really wants from a Satisfying Playtime Experience.  I wouldn’t have any objection, however, to a really random robot with a Real Flesh And Blood cover, so that Buster can sink the claws and fangs and scratch that Feline Itch to draw blood.   The ability to deliver a blood-curdling scream on a random basis after a particularly quick hit with the claws or fangs would be a plus.  As would the ability for scientists to point out this highly valuable yet non-controversial use for cloning technology.

But what I really, really, really want is a Portable Force Field.

I want this because I have a nasty, skanky, truly hateful juniper tree right outside my back door, and right next to my assigned parking spot.  It’s 50 feet tall, and is proof that even 70 or 100 years ago, the tendency to engage in absurd and short-sighted thinking when choosing landscaping elements was every bit as prevalent as it is today. I mean, it’s not like it’s news on the Botany Front that juniper trees grow to be enormous, and a solid ten minutes of reasoned thought is going to have to yield the conclusion that they probably should not be planted six feet from the house.

The part that I can forgive is planting this damn thing right next to the parking spot, because in all likelihood, when it was planted, there weren’t family cars to be parked.

The part that I absolutely cannot forgive ever is the Bright Idea to plant a damned dioecious tree anywhere, especially not when a monoecious tree was a viable possibility. The combination of the words “dioecious” and “juniper tree” mean that this vile thing drops a nonstop cascade of crap, virtually all year round, directly onto my car.

Enough pollen to turn the car yellow? Check.

Scaley-type needles, plummeting down year-round onto the car and into my garden, where they change the PH of the soil and get tangled up in my tarragon and thyme so that I have to pick through them carefully before using them? Check

Needles coated in sufficient resiny sap to adhere to any surface, including clean glass? Check.

Bright blue berries that shower down and make technicolor splats all over my finish?  Check.

Every time I park the car at this time of the year, I am driving over so many of those blasted berries that the entire back of the house smells like a gin and tonic, with an emphasis on the “gin”.

That would be sufficient, as they say, just to shower the ground with these things and create an aromatic reek, and muck up my paint job and change the PH of my garden soil.

But there’s more.

Because these bloody berries are some kind of delicacy for the neighborhood avians.  So you can take all of the above, and combine it with a thick paste of bird guano.

My car is one of the few in the neighborhood that is always twice as filthy after a big rainstorm than before, thanks to the rain powering down all of that yuk from the tree PLUS making it marginally more desirable for the birds to roost there.

I own a car cover, and back in the day before I was having to nursemaid my horse through a leg injury twice a day at the barn that is 15 minutes away, one-way, while the semester was getting off the ground…back in the day when I had ten minutes to call my own, I used my car cover religiously, and was happy in the knowledge that my paint finish was not sustaining permanent damage from this blasted conifer and it’s feathered cronies.

Now, the thought of spending 15 minutes boiling a kettle of water and shepherding all the junk I need to haul around to the barn in pursuit of Equine Leg Health PLUS spending five minutes each on either end of the journey  messing with the car cover just saps my will to live.

It’s not like I can get synergies, either, by – say – uncovering the car while I wait for the water to boil.

That is because even five minutes of exposure under that wretched tree are enough to coat my vehicle with berry ook, needles, and bird crap.  No, really. FIVE. MINUTES.  That’s all it takes.

So I’ve resigned myself to driving the sort of car that reckless youths would write “WASH ME” in the grime – if they could penetrate that sappy, resiny finish, which they can’t, because if they couldn’t it would mean it wasn’t half the pain in the ass it is to clean off – and waiting for either the end of these vexing twice-daily trips to the barn, or the end of Juniper Berry Season.

And what I really want (other than for this tree to vanish) is a Portable Force Field.  I want to point my stick at the car, press a button, and have an invisible field cover the car to keep the berries, needles, and bird crap off of it.  I realize it needs another feature too:  it’s got to be able to vaporize that stuff in a flash, because otherwise, when I turn off my Force Field, all that crap will just drop back onto my car.

That bloody tree is going strong, even at its advanced age.  No doubt the Jetson Technology will come on board long before the nasty thing gives up the ghost.  If I weren’t living in a condo, I’d just have the damn thing cut down and replaced with some other tree that doesn’t shed constantly.  I’m sure they are out there.