Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bob Dorough


The great Bob Dorough died today (you can read his New York Times obituary here) & I was lucky I was on the radio this morning so I could play one of his songs.  & not just any song: I played Three Is A Magic Number, the first song he wrote for what would become Schoolhouse Rock.

It's hard to overstate the effect that those songs & cartoons had on me as a child.  I was an avid watcher of Saturday Morning television, & I would put my mother's cassette tape recorder up to the little black & white television we had to record the songs (videotaping would have seemed like crazy science fiction to me) to listen to over & over.  In first grade (or maybe second), I mentioned to my teacher that I recorded them, & she asked me to bring them up to play to the class; I remember being embarrassed because I would read the little credit at the end of the cartoon, whether it was "grammar rock" or "science rock" or "multiplication rock."  The class laughed when they heard my voice on the tape.

How incredibly serendipitous that a man like Bob Dorough - a true lover of music - & a clever songwriter himself - came to not only write many of the songs, but shepherded them as Music Director for the project.  He brought in old friends like Blossom Dearie to sing some of the tunes, & the styles were diverse & mesmerizing.  I can't speak to any real knowledge about psychology, but I am willing to surmise that my own often unwieldy taste in many kinds of music may have its roots in the genres & voices Dorough encouraged & brought to the project.

Life went on.  I grew up.  I didn't watch cartoons on Saturday mornings any more.  (Saturdays I slept in.)  Then one day in twelfth grade I was at my friend Joe's house & he had an actual Multiplication Rock record.  Holy shit.  (It was this one here.)  I didn't imagine such a thing existed - it would've been like discovering a record that had all my favorite television themes on it!  I borrowed it, I taped it, I tried to share my enthusiasm with my friends.  Some were not amused - later on, my friend Russell told me that he was trying to get me interested in serious music in high school & all I cared about was "children's music."

Maybe I felt a bit of vindication when, in the 1990s, they released all the Schoolhouse Rock stuff on CD, & trendy bands covered them, & even America's Sweetheart Drew Barrymore wrote a forward for the box set booklet.  But mainly I was glad to have them - I play them regularly on my show, & even played "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here" last week on Self Help Radio.

& that dear man, that soft-spoken, Southern-accented man whose nimble fingers & quick wit made those songs that I love as much as anything I love, I am going to say he's responsible for much of my love of music.  He made learning fun, he helped me learn my times tables, his voice in my head made me realize possibilities in music I simply didn't know about at the age of five, six, seven, eight.  That it's been decades & I'm still thinking about this music - still playing it on the radio! - suggests that his work - & this includes his non-Schoolhouse Rock work, which I discovered later - it suggests that what Bob Dorough made in his long life has an element of the timeless about it.

Thank you, good sir.  I think you understood how much you were appreciated, & how much what you created was loved.  It was the best thing to have grown up with your music in my life's soundtrack.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Placeholder

Hold this.
Where?
In place.
What place?
Any place.
Any place?
Any place.  But here.
Then where?
When where?
Maybe now where?
Maybe nowhere.
So where?
So we're safe.
& sound?
& sound is all we'll hear.
Here?
Anywhere.
Where is anywhere?
It has to be somewhere.
Where some are?
Some but not all.
Hardy any?
Softly most.
Mostly?
It's the least you can do.
Can I?
If you must.
Must I?
If you may.
May I?
If you can.
& if I can't?
Then give it back to me.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Often Forgotten

This is a thing I do: I go the usual way to get from place to place & then, if I have a little time, I turn, right or left, & go in that direction for a little while.  I often take pictures when I do that.  I often have enough sense of direction to not get completely turned around, but will often rely on the GPS to get me back home.  But this metroplex I live in is defined by sprawl & there's so much space, & so many people in that space.

Maybe my favorite thing to see & take pictures of is an abandoned building, whether a home or business, waiting for time or gentrification to destroy or reinhabit it.  This part of the world values new over old - it's crazy how many lovely old homes there are that exist, build just in the 1950s or 60s, but people still buy hastily-constructed McMansions - but there are still some decaying treasures out there, often flanked by fast food joints or unattractive, boxy strip malls.

There were many abandoned homes in Huntington, West Virginia, where I lived from 2009-2010, but I didn't take many pictures then.  The convenience of the digital camera had yet to find me.  If I went back, I would take tons.  I don't think I'll ever go back, though.

When I am out & about, I drive slowly, I make sure I'm on a four-lane road so angry drivers can zoom in frustration past my little Prius.  If I want to take a picture, I'll need to slow down or even stop.  Today I went around the block a couple of times to get a picture.  Back when I started taking pictures, in Lexington, friends warned me that I might get beaten up by people suspicious of me, but I try not to be so obvious.  Last year, in Oakland, a homeless man yelled at me & started to chase me because I guess I took a picture of his tent, but that's as close to danger as I've ever been in.

Anyway, I drove a little around Grand Prairie today, which no longer has a prairie in its city limits.  I took a few pictures.  I went from one highway to another, & was a little disappointed when it seemed I was heading home.

If you'd like to see some of the pictures I take that I like, I put them on the show's Tumblr blog.  Yes, they would be more appropriate on Instagram, but I don't think there was an Instagram when I started that blog.  It's nothing special, just like me, but it's something I enjoy.

One thing, though: I wish it were easier to get lost in this world.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Self Help Radio 041818: Markets

(Original image here.)

Hooray!  It's market day!  Make sure you have cash!  Get those reusable bags!  Don't make a list - we'll just buy whatever catches our eye!  Do you wanna bike there?  Drive?  Are you crazy?  To the market?  Well, you can drive but I'm gonna bike!  Or walk!  Let's take the dogs!  Let's take the neighbor's dogs!  Let's take the neighbors!  It's motherfucking market day!

& so it went on this week's Self Help Radio, a show about markets of all kinds but let's face it it's mainly about supermarkets & the like.  People just don't write songs about market forces or stock markets or even marketing come to think of it.  But supermarkets, oh yeah.  We're in those fuckers all the time.  Do you remember that episode of Happy Days where the Fonz taught Richie how easy it was to pick up women in the supermarket?  & he accidentally hit on Richie's mother?  That was funny.  Where was I?  I don't really remember.

The show is now at the Self Help Radio website.  It's free to download but look for the username & password (which are on the front page there) or you won't get to listen.  There are lots of songs & also guests in both parts & what's in each part is listed below.

Does this seem organic?  It doesn't look organic to me.

"At The Market" Remington Super 60 _Indie Pop For Kids, Vol. 1_
"Open Air Market" Petrikis _Open Air Market_
"Market Place" Etta James _Etta James R & B Dynamite_

"Market Day" The Brotherhood Of Lizards _Lizardland_
"Down To The Market" The Kooks _Konk_
"A Supermarket In California" Allen Ginsberg _Howls, Raps, & Roars: Recordings From The San Francisco Poetry Renaissance_
"Supermarket Blues" Eugene McDaniels _Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse_
"Let's Loot The Supermarket Again Like We Did Last Summer" Mick Farren _The Stiff Records Box Set_

interview with "the Market Guy" Lorenzo Schwab

"Lost In The Supermarket" The Clash _London Calling_
"Fairytale In The Supermarket" The Raincoats _The Raincoats_
"Supermarket" Iggy Pop _Skull Ring_
"Shoplifters Of The World Unite" The Smiths _Louder Than Bombs_
"Shoplifters Market" Firesign Theater _Eat Or Be Eaten_

"Queen Of The Supermarket" Bruce Springsteen _Working On A Dream_
"Supermarket" Earl Sinks _The Man With 1000 Names_
"Supermarket Full Of Cans" The Eyes Of Blue _The Mod Scene_
"I'm In The Market For You (Don Howard, vocals)" Ben Selvin & His Orchestra _The Very Best Of Ben Selvin_

interview with Paul Krugman Karl Proogman

"Go Shoppin' (feat. Eek-A-Mouse)" Bran Van 3000 _Discosis_
"The Market Of Farms" Artichoke _Etchy Sketchy Skies_
"Matt Neffer: At The Supermarket" Bob & Ray _Classic: Volume 3_
"Abominable Snowman In The Market" Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers _Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers_
"Supermarket Scene" Icecream Hands _You Can Ride My Bike: The Best Of Icecream Hands_

interview with grocer David Fruchter

"Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here" Bob Dorough _Schoolhouse Rock: Grammar Rock_
"Stone Cold Dead In The Market (He Had It Coming) (with Ella Fitzgerald)" Louis Jordan _Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five, Vol. 3: 1944-1946_
"Le Supermarché" Les Calamités _Les Calamités_
"Shopaholic" Bis _Social Dancing_
"Electronique Supermarket" Skanfrom _Cashier Escape Route_

"Supermarket Casanova" Hyperbubble _Candy Apple Daydreams_
"Touching Boys (In Supermarkets)" Alice & The Enemies _Alice & The Enemies_

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Whither Markets?


That picture above is one I took of the Fort Worth Public Market, an urban ruin which once, the Wikipedia says, "housed various businesses such as grocers, bakers, & butchers."  It continues, "At its peak, the Public Market had space for 145 farmer & vendor stalls & 30 permanent retail shops."  Most interesting to me is that the space had a weekly radio show on WBAP during its life!

It is no longer at its peak.  There's more information here, but fascinatingly, it was built in 1930 but succumbed to the effects of the Great Depression & closed as a market in 1941.  That's not terribly long.  It housed various businesses but hasn't had a tenant since 2004.  The area around it, however, is being gentrified, so there's always the chance that it'll experience another rebirth at some point.  But probably not as a market.

The picture was taken earlier this year, before I even knew I'd be doing a show about markets.  I just happened to run across it today, as I was mulling over what sort of nonsense I'd write about tonight's episode.  The city is full of abandoned buildings like this.  All around the metroplex, especially in the expansive suburbs, cheap apartment complexes are being built, along highways, on the former prairies that used to circle the cities.  Meanwhile inside the cities places like this are left to rot.  It's a wonder they leave the edifices up.

(Well, they have to in this case - it was designated a Texas Historical Landmark in 1980.  I think that's what's prevented the wrecking ball from obliterating it entirely.)

Though I probably won't mention this market on tonight's show, there are many other markets to note, so have a listen, if you'd like, from 9-11pm eastern at 93.9 fm in Lexington & online at Lexington community radio dot org.  This markets has plenty of things you'll want & they're all free!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Preface To Markets: This Little Piggy

There used to be - there still is? - a flea market in Garland where I would buy CDs very cheap & someone said to me when I was walking away from the stall - I had just bought Joy Division's Still for two bucks - the person said to me, "All his shit is stolen, man."

For the longest time - it seemed like years but was probably just a few months months - on Sunday mornings, the wife & I would leash up the dogs & we'd walk to the Farmer's Market in Lexington on Southland Drive.  I hated navigating the hounds through all the people - who wanted to pet them, & from whom they wanted to steal food - so I'd sit across the street, outside this German restaurant, closed Sundays, & call my mother or my sister, & pass the time with talk.  I was thinking we stopped going because my wife got bored of it, but actually we stopped going when I started to cook more - before we planned meals, my wife would buy things & decide what dinners to make with them - but I prefer to lay out the week in advance, & if I couldn't find, say, eggplants at the Farmer's Market, it would screw up my schedule.  I began to buy my food supplies at a place I knew would have what I needed.  The Farmer's Market then because superfluous.

In 1992, I went to Mexico City.  I was in love with a girl who had been studying abroad there & we arranged to meet after she was done in Cuernavaca.  I was struck by how every street was lined with people selling things - an entire city that was a market - & felt strange after a while that I wasn't buying anything.  Like a kid in a convenience store who's just passing the time, I glanced at everyone like they might kick me out for not being a paying customer.  & once of two, I'd feel a strange sensation up against my butt, a pickpocket attempting to steal a wallet I didn't carry.  I'd turn & look at the pilferer & feel a little sorry I had nothing to steal.

When I was a kid I loved to go to this place called Treasure City, which seemed large beyond measure, which was in reality about the size of an average K-Mart.  But unlike a K-Mart, you would walk in & the front area was full of little children's rides, like horses & tiny carousels.  & if you dropped me into that place again today I would know exactly where the toy section was, & it was a mess.  There would always been lots of children there & board games would be opened & books strewn about & toys being played with.  It's a wonder they were able to stay in business, &, of course, they didn't.

Gosh, I must have been in either early middle school or late elementary school when a new Minyard's supermarket opened in the shopping center next to the apartments I lived in.  I remember the opening day because I, who had no money, managed to be one of the first hundred or so people who entered &, because of that, I got a little plant, some kind of succulent, as an opening day gift.  I wandered the aisles but was happy to find, in the back corner, two things: the magazine section, which had comic books, & the water fountain, which was right next to the magazine section.  I took the plant home & set it on my window sill & promptly forgot about it.  I'm sure my mother tossed it out eventually.

The Wikipedia article on markets - meaning marketplaces - says the first Persian markets appeared around 3000 BCE.  Five millennia of humans going to places to buy things - food, clothing, toys, housewares, anything, everything.  Isn't it crazy that when you go to the outlet mall you're basically doing the same thing the first people did when they went to the bazaar?

It's a shame, in its way, so many people do it from their computer these days.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Judge Harry


Harry Anderson was a funny guy but he wasn't the funniest guy on his own television show.  That didn't seem to bother him one bit.  It let him slowly move into the role as the show's moral center, which I'm sure pleased him.  But most certainly he had that sense of self that some comedians have that says, "The important thing is the laughs, & it doesn't matter whether I'm the one getting them or not."  He wasn't quite the straight man, but he could be, & he had an amazing cast to react to.

It's hard to believe that Night Court started in 1984 because I remember watching it in college, but there it was, on the air during my (probably) formative years.  I was sixteen when it started & twenty-four when it ended.  & I think I tried to catch it in the spring of 1992 on Wednesday nights, before or after Seinfeld, when it had just started.  I've watched the first couple of seasons since, but most of the show is not available on DVD.  Maybe that'll change, or it'll come to Netflix or something.

As you probably know, Harry Anderson died today.  He made me laugh so much when I was younger, him & his show, & I'm sure he'll do it again.  That's the sort of magic he really practiced.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Bump On The Knee

Oh no!  There's a bump on my knee!  Better get to Web MD!

First I have to check my symptoms.

It's asking me my age & gender.  That's easy!

Main symptom?  All right!  "Lump on knee."

Medications?  Oh, they won't let me put "whiskey."  Oh well.

"Conditions that match your symptoms:

"Baker's cyst
"Osteoarthritis"

Oh no!  Oh no!

My wife: "You fell down & hit your knee the other day, moron.  It's a swelling.  Do you see the bruise?"

Okay, adding "bruising."  The same results!

My wife: "I'm going to take the internet away from you if you keep this shit up."

Oh all right.  Sigh.

My wife: "& stop touching it!"

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Self Help Radio 041118: Mermaids

(Original image here.)

It's true, mermaids live among us!  While researching this show, in Fort Worth, which is nowhere near the ocean, I had a vision of mermaids playing poker in an undersea bar.  The music was slow & murky, because, you know, you have to move through water to play the piano.  & there were no drinks because you just had to open your mouth to drink something.  In fact, it made no sense why there would be a bar underwater.  But it was a vision, so it didn't have to make sense!

In my vision, after I ordered a scotch & soda at the bar (it never came) (for reasons explained above), one of the poker-playing mermaids motioned to me, & I went over.  She told me her name was Glurble & she worked part-time as a real estate agent while she was working her way through college.  She was so beautiful!  She said she knew of some lovely coral I could easily make a home in but it was going fast, not because of people buying it, but because of climate change.

While I couldn't buy any property, I could offer to buy her a drink, which went over as well as might be expected.  It turns out she was married, & I was too, even in a vision, which I thought massively unfair.  But after she spurned me I became aware that she wasn't the only one: there were hundreds, thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of mermaids, & they were all married!

It seemed appropriate that this be the subject of a radio show.  & so it was.  Hear the results of my scientific investigation now at the Self Help Radio Science Page.  It's all true I swear!  You'll need a username & password to enter, but that information is on the page.  It's in two parts of almost-equal length, & what is in each section is below.

Spurned by Glurble!  My heart remains broken.

(part one)

"The Mermaid Song" Cab Calloway & His Orchestra _1941-1942_
"Song Of The Mermaid" Petula Clark _It Had to Be You: The Complete Early Singles_
"Mermaids" Paul Weller _Heavy Soul_

"Zennor Mermaid" The Hit Parade _Cornish Pop Songs_
"Mermaid" The Dollyrots _Whiplash Splash_
"Mermaid" Flight Of The Conchords _Folk The World Tour_
"My Mermaid & Me" Bill Soden _Fading Yellow, Vol. 6 (Another Rich Smorgasbord Of Timeless US Pop-Sike & Other Delights)_

interview with mermaid hunter Capt. David Fruchter

"The Mermaid" Ewan MacColl _Ye Mariners All: More Shanties & Forebitters_
"Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me" Mississippi John Hurt _D.C. Blues: The Library Of Congress Recordings, Vol. 1_
"The Mermaid" Frankie Laine _The Frankie Laine Collection_
"The Mermaid" Shel Silverstein _I'm So Good That I Don't Have To Brag_

"Blue Eyed Mermaid" Bobby Darin & The Jay Birds _The Complete Singles Collection_
"Mermaids & Surfer Girls" Colleen & Paul _Colleen & Paul_
"Mermaids" Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds _Push The Sky Away_
"Mermaid Smiled" XTC _Skylarking_
"Sweatshop Mermaid" Haircut _Sweatshop_

InterOptions!

"Minnie The Mermaid (A Love Song In Fish Time)" Bernie Cummins & His Hotel New Yorker Orchestra _Baby How Can It Be (Songs Of Love, Lust, & Contempt From The 1920s & 1930s)_
"Little Mermaid Time" The Telephone Company _Panda Brain!_
"Mermaid Chant" Crushed Out _Teeth_
"Mermaids" Gingerlys _Gingerlys_

phone call from actual merman SteFin Seaborn

"Mermaids" I Am Kloot _I Am Kloot_
"Mermaid" Inspiral Carpets _The Beast Inside_
"Mermaid" Viva Saturn _Soundmind_
"Mermaid Drowning On Dry Land" Miles Dethmuffen _Clutter_

"At The Mermaid Parade" Katell Keineg _At The Mermaid Parade_
"In A Mermaid Tail" Po! _Horse Blanket Weather_

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Whither Mermaids?

(Image found here.)

My adventures with mermaids go all the way back to my youth.  As an only child living in a fishing village, with my mother all but enslaved to the local fishmonger & my father always out to sea, I was alone a great deal.  The busy wharf & market were too frenetic for a boy with my sensitive disposition, so I would find myself wandering along the shore, staring out into the sea which seemed my destiny.

One sunny afternoon, I was daydreaming with the gulls when I suddenly heard what sounded like a whisper, then another whisper, then giggling.  I crept along the rock to see two beautiful mermaids lying about, half-in the water, half-out, chatting in a carefree manner.  I was frozen by fear, but became aware they had noticed me, by their glances & the accompanying laughs, though they otherwise ignored me.

Soon enough they were gone, diving back into the deep with their tales splashing as they went.  But I came back to the same place every day to discover it was their ritual to take lunch at this very spot regularly.  Though we didn't speak the same language, we managed to communicate by gestures & expressions on our faces, though I did manage to pick up a few words of mer-talk by & by.  They never once seemed interested in learning my language, which suited me, as I was not a talkative child.

When people now talking about "the abduction," it is assumed that some criminal element from our village had taken me for the months I was gone, & though I did my best to dissuade the authorities, & my parents, that nothing of the sort had happened.  No one took my away; I had decided to travel with the mermaids of my own volition.  To be sure, I was afraid of the cold & dark world underwater, but to acclimatize me to their surroundings was easy, as they were of course magical creatures.  Most surprisingly, I discovered many other humans in their underwater world, humans who showed no interest in returning to the surface.  My concern for my mother always nagged at me, & soon I asked to be taken home.  The merfolk did not imprison me in any way.

Over the years, I ventured there when I could, & even once took a common-law mermaid wife, which explains why I have never married here.  But my life above water kept calling me back - my parents took ill & needed constant care before their deaths, & my mother had needed me to work with the fishmonger to pay the bills.  It wasn't until I was much older when I found one of my oldest mermaid companions playing with what seemed to be gold coins.  She took me the site of a sunken ship which contained a fortune in treasure.  I would take some jewels & coins with me every time I resurfaced, & soon became the richest man in our village.  I even bought the fishmonger's place, & put him to work as my employee.

Expeditions were launched to discover the source of my good fortune, but they could never go as far out nor as deep as I did.  Jealous rivals accused me of stealing, but with the money I had I could always defend myself, & on occasion, arrange for their own misfortune.  In this way I managed to remain happy both on land & in the sea - truly, I was one of the few who successfully navigated the dangerous waters - both literally & figuratively - that separated the two spheres.

& now, in my old age, I have thought to tell the world about my adventures with my mermaid & mermen friends.  A book seemed to me too common, & they would never let me film or record them in any way.  It seemed music would perhaps serve me best, but I am a poor singer with no musical skills.  Yet there were many songs about mermaids.  Thus I hit upon a novel idea: a radio program, where I would share my stories as well as songs about my merfolk friends.  Alas, I have discovered too late that this would already happen, well before I could prepare such a tribute.  But I shall listen!

That show, about mermaids, airs tonight from 9-11pm eastern on 93.9 fm WLXU in Lexington, Kentucky, a poor, landlocked place.  I will be listening with my mermaid friends online, at Lexington Community Radio's website.  Yes, mermaids have the internet.  They steal it from the wires that run along the sea floor.

As for me, I do hope my friends enjoy it.  If not - well, it's been a long time since humans have angered them enough to cause them to retaliate on the surface world!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Preface To Mermaids: What About The Mermen?

No, no, not the Mermen!

Mermen!  Male mermaids!

There's a board on Pinterest, whatever that means.  Plus I google image searched that shit.  Here are some of my favorites:

(This guy's story is here.)

(Romantic!  It's from here.)

(Popeye the Sailor Merman!  Oh my.)

(Fine art by Cameron Stalheim.)

& finally, the o.g. merman, Triton:

(Many more images here.)

Now, of course, almost all the songs tomorrow are going to be about mermaids, so hopefully Mermen's Rights activists will consider this a goodwill gesture to balance the show somewhat.

If female half-human/half-fish creatures are called mermaids, why aren't the male versions called merboys or merlads or merguys?  Maybe mermen deserve to be marginalized.  Just saying.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Famous Mermaids

Eek!

A long time ago, when it was just me doing my show, I was often accused of talking too much.  You see, when it came to whatever the show's theme was, I loved talking about it during songs.  It probably was mostly boring, but I kinda miss it.

Nowadays, with the "interviews" I do, which I find funny even if no one listening does, I don't get a lot of time to explore the theme as I used to, by, you know, talking about stuff I found out.

For example, tonight I was reading this Mental Floss article about famous mermaids.  It's totally the sort of thing that I'd talk about over a couple of airbreaks on the show.  But since I probably won't have the time Wednesday, I figured I could share it here.

& since you didn't ask, no, I've never seen a mermaid.  I don't think I've ever even dreamed about one.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Thomas Mann

How long as it been since I've read The Magic Mountain?  I mentioned it to my very old mother today, who, despite being German, had never read it.  We were talking (my conversations with my mother are kind of weird) about tuberculosis.  Why were we talking about that?

My mother as she has gotten older has constantly questioned why she's gotten so old.  I would never mention to her that she's always been terrified of death (not to mention life) so she has been extremely careful throughout her life.  But I wanted to point out to her that if she had been born in 1829 instead of 1929 she would probably not have lived as long as she has.  I pointed out to her that in the 19th century, she wouldn't have had anesthesia, penicillin, vaccines - which led to the discussion of tuberculosis.

Anyway, after the conversation, I wondered how many Thomas Mann books I've read, which interested me.  Go to the end of his Wikipedia page, he's written tons of stuff.  It's just The Magic Mountain & Death In Venice for me.  I'm a little amazed that I've missed so much.

But then - just tonight - I spent some minutes watching the new trailer for Solo
more than once & I understand: the young man who was interested in literature in my teens will always, always, defer to the ten-year-old who fucking loved Star Wars.
Is that true for everyone?  I wonder.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Beatrice


We said goodbye this week to my beautiful old girl cat, Beatrice.  She was seventeen, nearly eighteen years old.  I believe I spent nearly every day of her life with her, & I am not being conceited when I say she liked me best, because it was really just by default.  She knew me longest, so she tolerated me most.


This little white monster was the only girl child of a cat named Caldonia, who belonged to my friends Mike & Melinda.  They adopted her when she was pregnant, & in the summer of 2000, they asked if I wanted to adopt another cat.  My cat Blue Boy had died the year before, & it was just me & a kitten named Buster in my sad little bachelor pad.

She was named Beatrice because she was just so beautiful, I imagined I would accompany her through hell & purgatory just to see her in heaven.


That picture is our first meeting.  She was so small, so white, &, I have to admit, so mean.  In the first year or so, our interactions involved me trying to pet her & her attacking my hands.  I got used to having scratches all over them.  She was mean to Buster, too, but that cat was incredibly patient with her.  He kept her in line & groomed her & paid great attention to her.  He was the best big brother she could have ever had, & she loved & interacted with him in a way she would with no other cat in the house.


I have three stories about Beatrice's days in my lonesome bachelor pad.  The first involves pooping.  Apparently, Beatrice didn't quite learn how to poop from her mother.  In the first couple of days with me, I noticed she hadn't gone to the litter box to defecate, although she did know how to urinate.  I went to the internet for help & it told me that a mother cat will often lick the anus to encourage the child to do its thing, & while I didn't want her to suffer, I didn't think I could quite manage those maternal moves, but the internet advised me that a warm washcloth would do the trick, & so it did.  I like to think I helped teach my little cat how to poop.

She was a hellion in those days, & she loved to run up the curtains in the living room, just leap on to them & using her claws Spider-Man up to the curtain rod, where often she would meow & I would have to help her down.  It was something that always kinda shocked people who were visiting - the sudden leap & scramble was quite loud.  When my girlfriend convinced me that we needed to move, & after she helped me (by doing most of the work) clean the place after we moved out, we thought it might be nice to close the curtains (I always left them open) but when we did, little shafts of sunlight peeked out from hundreds of holes poked into the fabric by tiny claws over months of climbing adventures.  We left the curtains open.  I got most of the deposit back.

& speaking of the move - when Beatrice was a kitten, I was able to hold her when I went to the vet & stuff like that, but as she got bigger, she got stronger, & she was never interested in going outside.  She was too skittish, & would hide when people came over.  But I had to put her in a carrier to move her to our new place, & I was doing it in my now-empty duplex & Beatrice did not want to go.  I came outside & told them I'd come back for her & my left arm was covered in scratches & blood.



She eventually found herself living in a house with her big brother Bolan, her dad, his girlfriend, & her two dogs.  Beatrice made it clear with a swipe at the nose of whichever hound that she was best left alone.  It was a ritual - each of the five dogs we've had learned pretty much right away that she was not a buddy or a plaything.  As late as last year, I was calling Pauline to bed - Pauline the hound who wrestled with Rottweilers! - & she wouldn't come, though I could hear her tapping around.  I got out of bed to find that she was at the end of the hall & Beatrice was just sitting there, a few feet in front of her, minding her own business.  Pauline did not dare pass.

That little cat rolled with the changes, always making time to visit with me, usually at night, right before bed.  She loved to be loved, but she had a time limit.  My petting & her purring would come to an abrupt end when she'd swat at me, her way of saying "enough's enough."


There would of course be other cats, & here's a picture of her meeting Bolan in 2006.  Bolan is such a gregarious sort that he won her over in his way, but mostly the other cats respected her space & let her be her.  She had a strong, fierce personality.  She was, of all our animals, the most certain of herself.

& she would move with us to West Virginia, then Kentucky (two different residences), & back to Texas (also two different residences).  It got easier to move her with each change of address, but it was never a piece of cake.  Age of course mellowed her a bit.  She might be found lounging somewhere next to a dog or cat, or even me, as long as I respected her boundaries.  She enjoyed sitting in the window but never really wanted to explore more than that.  She loved to eat, & got a little tubby, like in this photo from our first year in Kentucky, including an amusing Winston photobomb:


She was always supportive of my radio work.  She's the icon for my page on Radio Free America.  Though something strange happened when we got to West Virginia: she stopped meowing.  She could still howl a bit - she made awful noises when I took her to the vet - but I think the move to West Virginia, with her & Bolan crying in the back of the car for the entire trip, I think she decided she had meowed herself out.  She would more likely open her mouth & let out an audible gasp, which became so recognizable that I would know it as if hearing a distinct voice.  I miss it more than you can imagine.

In 2014, when she had just turned fourteen, her health problems began.  Magda would have the timeline better, but it was a miserable cascade.  She had issues with IBS, & then had to have her thyroid partially removed.  The steroids for the IBS triggered diabetes, which she would have for the rest of her life, although it went into remission a couple of times.  Controlling her diabetes was a constant concern, & it took its toll - in her later years, she developed in her limbs diabetic neuropathy, which made her paws look a bit like "clown feet."  She was always a heavy treader - you always knew when she was approaching, & her jumping off of something sounded like something fell - so the main concern was whether it was painful.  We just didn't know.  We took care of her best we could.


She did mellow as she got older, & let me love on her longer & longer.  She liked to be in my room with me, & I liked her there too.  At one point I put a little pet bed under my desk where she would sleep.

But chronic illnesses have a way of catching up, & earlier this year we tried steroids again to curb her weight loss, which knocked her sugar levels out of whack, which then preceded to advance to pancreatitis.  Over the past year she had lost a great deal of muscle, & in the last few weeks had been eating less & less.  Being a creature of habit, she still insisted on eating at the regularly scheduled times, & demanded a more varied diet (dry food sometimes, wet food others, lots & lots of cheese toward the end) even when she ate less & less of it.  A visit to the vet early last week had our doctor telling me I had to start thinking about her quality of life,  Sometimes you need someone who only sees your animal every few months to alert you that something's not right.



But in her last week, we gave her fluids & she seemed to perk up, until, of course, she didn't.  We talked to our vet a week later & she gave us a gentle scolding: "Who are you keeping her alive for, you or her?"  Of course it was for us!  I had lived more than a third of my life with this beautiful little creature nearby, what the fuck was I going to do if she were gone?

When I told our vet that Beatrice was sitting on my lap & letting me caress her for up to thirty minutes at a time, she suggested that might be a signal that she was in pain, that she wasn't well, that it was time to let her go.


Beatrice died Tuesday afternoon.  A veterinarian came to our home, Beatrice was on her favorite pillow on the dining room table, she was given sedatives to relax her before she left us.  She hadn't been sleeping well for a while, & like I said she was a bit of an anxious cat, but she seemed fine & let me & Magda pet her while she became more serene than I'd ever seen her.  We touched her all over, she purred a kind of weak purr, we marveled at how beautiful she was, how soft she was, this cat who wanted & got love on her own terms for almost two decades.  She would've turned eighteen in June.

& me, I have dreamt about her every night since, I see her out of the corner of my eye as I pass the places she used to sit.  There are only three cats to feed now, not four.  Little tufts of her hair turn up from time-to-time - on the pillow on the crate behind me, in my office, where she would sit with me for the last few months; on clothes that I've worn the past couple of weeks; on other places she's sat or been, dog beds, pillows, my bed.  She hasn't really gone away because how could someone that's been such an essential part of your life just disappear so suddenly?

Back in the day, I used to say, "I never would've guessed that the love of my life would be a mean little white cat."  It turns out we get to have several loves of our lives, in several species if we're lucky, & oh man was I lucky to have Beatrice.  I was lucky my friend Mike trusted me with her when she was a baby, I was lucky she chose me to be the one she loved the most, I was lucky everyone we had to live with understood & respected her for what she was.

Lucky, grateful, sad, so sad, but glad, glad I got to spend so much of my life with my little princess, with my tigress, the mean little ball of fur who grew up & took an outsized portion of my heart as her favorite place to be.  Love you & miss you, Beezy.  I hope you knew.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Self Help Radio 040418: Wells

(Moments before Self Help Radio fell down the well.  Original image here.)

Well, well, well.  Well, well.  Well, well, well, well.  Oh hey.  I didn't see you there.  I was counting all the wells that were featured on this week's Self Help Radio, which was about wells.  Well, well, well.  I think it was at least thirty wells.

& no, why do you imagine that would include famous people named Wells?  It does not!  If you need a list of famous people named Wells, go here & make your own radio show.  Or podcast.  Or webpage.  Sheesh!

What's mostly cool about the show is that there are two new songs, written especially for the show, one by Kentucky artists Jenny Adkins, & another by Texas duo Drug Boyfriend & Holy Worm.  Honestly, the show's done nothing to deserve such gifts, but I'm extremely grateful!

The show, which isn't as deep as it thinks it is, is now at the Self Help Radio well waiting for you to dip a bucket in.  That sounds naughty.  I'm sorry.  In any event, please remember the username & password info, which is up there on that page.  The show is in two parts, & what's in each part is listed below.

(part one)

"You Always Miss The Water (When The Well Runs Dry)" Maxim Trio (feat. Ray Charles) _The Swingtime Records Story_
"Dry Well Blues" Charley Patton _Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order, Vol. 4_
"Ain't Goin' Down To The Well No More" Lead Belly _Lead Belly's Last Sessions_

"The Well" Tarnation _Gentle Creatures_
"The Well" Salem 66 _1983-1987 (Your Soul Is Mine, Fork It Over)_
"The Well" His Name Is Alive _Home Is In Your Head_
"The Well" Smog _A River Ain't Too Much To Love_

"Down To The Well (BBC Version)" The Pixies _At The BBC_
"There's Something At The Bottom Of The Well" The Moontrekkers _The Joe Meek Collection: Intergalactic Instros_
"Cat's In The Well" Bob Dylan _Under The Red Sky_
"Every Well" The Deslondes _Hurry Home_
"Bottomless Well" Bobby Bare _Sings Lullabys, Legends & Lies_

"The Well Of Loneliness" McCarthy _I Am A Wallet_

(part two)

"When Your Well Runs Dry" Billie Poole _Confessin' The Blues_
"No More Water In The Well" The Temptations _Emperors Of Soul_
"Lost In The Well" The Wishing Stones _Wildwood_

"O Well, Oh Well" Jenny Adkins _O Well, Oh Well_
"Wishing Well" Glo-Worm _Glimmer_
"Wishing Well" California Snow Story _Close To The Ocean_
"Wishing Well" Love Is All _A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night_
"Wishing Well" Bob Mould _Workbook_

"Wishin' Well" David Lynch _The Big Dream_
"The Wishing Well" Jacobites _God Save Us Poor Sinners_
"Wishing Well" Dylan Mondegreen _While I Walk You Home_
"Wishing Well" The Proctors _Everlasting Light_
"Wishing Well (Beloveds Go Deep Mix)" Black Dog & Black Sifichi _Genetically Modified_

"Dollar Wells" Drug Boyfriend & Holy Worm _Dollar Wells_
"Wishing Well" Smack Dab _Queen Crab_