Friday, April 06, 2018


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 Buster, 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_

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Whither Wells?

(Image found here.)

The corporate overlords of Self Help Radio wish to apologize to people who love & appreciate many different kinds of wells for this week's show, which will be predominantly about water wells (like the one above) as well as wishing wells, which look like but do not do the job of water wells.  Therefore, fans of oil wells, natural gas wells, gravity wells, H.G. Wells, & the like will not find satisfaction with the songs or talk in this week's show.

As well (no pun intended), the word "well" used adverbially ("this week's show is not going well"), adjectivally ("I don't feel well"), or interjectionally ("Well, this show is going to suck") will not make an appearance in this show, except inadvertently, as in the beginning of this sentence, or cleverly, as to draw a distinction between the diverse meanings while still being about the noun version of wells.  In any event, the Self Help Radio Home Office issues another apology to fans of the adverb, adjective, & interjection forms of the word "well" & hopes to perhaps goad the show's host to explore that someday too, so as to stave off any nuisance lawsuits.

What's so special about wells?  Honestly, many meetings with the senior staff have resulted in shrugged shoulders & day drinking.  Water wells have been around for over eight thousand years but, as Jenkins in accounting said, to the great amusement of all, so has cholera.  We have fun.  But once more Self Help Radio executives feel obliged to issue another apology, & remind any disgruntled listeners that there are many, many other shows one could listen to which, of course, the entirety of the management at Self Help Radio tends to do on Wednesday nights anyway.

However, should you wish to listen to a radio show about wells, this week's show airs tonight from 9 to 11pm eastern on 93.9 fm WLXU in Lexington & online everywhere at Lexington Community Radio dot Org.  Should you have feedback before, during, or after the show, please remember, we have issued three apologies & our lawyers tell us that's plenty.  We certainly hope so!

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Preface To Wells: Never Been Down A Well

Maybe I've told this story before, but during my third grade year, I had two amazing experiences that I thought would lead to more amazing experiences but that ended up being singular experiences.

One is that, while we (a friend I think was named Kyle, my little brother, & I) were playing in the undeveloped area behind our apartments, we found an abandoned, derelict house, which was basically hidden in tall grass.  It hadn't been occupied for a long time, & this would've been around 1976 or 1977.  It wasn't far from the apartments, but it obviously had been built way before them - probably before the road that the apartments were on.

We had a blast playing in that ruin of a house.  There were places were there were still walls - or the rotting wooden framework of walls - & there of course were concrete steps & well-delineated areas where one could imagine a front door, a back door, & rooms.  As an imaginative kid, I had pretended many places were homes, but this was an actual home.  Again, we had so much fun.  At home, I told my mother what a great discovery we had made.  She told us it wasn't safe & we could never go back there again.

You know what?  We didn't.  It's amazing my mother had such control over us.

The second was, we discovered we were tiny enough to crawl into the sewers.  We could slide into them, & suddenly we found ourselves a world underground.  Again, my brother was with me, & I think our friend Maxie.  I believe these would've been the rain sewers, not the ones that carried waste - there was certainly no waste when we were down there.  The pipes weren't small, in some places we could even stand up a little, but it was a real revelation to scamper down a pipe & discover, when you looked up, you were peeping out into the road in front of the apartments.  I think my little brother & I discussed using this new method to get to school.

Of course, my mother, when told, forbade us from ever going into the sewers again.  & you know what?  We didn't.

So, alas, I never went down a well, I've probably never even seen a well up close before, but I did spend a glorious day one time when I was eight playing in concrete pipes under the apartments where I lived.  That's gotta count for something, right?

Monday, April 02, 2018

Return To Form 1040EZ

This is an exchange in the film Duck Soup between a prosecutor, & Chico Marx, who plays Chicolini, who happens to be on trial:

Prosecutor: Something must be done. War would meant a prohibitive increase in our taxes.
Chicolini: Hey, I've got an uncle that lives in Taxes.
Prosecutor: No, I'm talking about taxes. Money. Dollars.
Chicolini: Dollas! There's-a where my uncle lives! Dollas, Taxes!

Now that it's tax season, that joke is getting used around this house - by me, of course - quite a lot.  Do you think the wife is enjoying it?  Oh no.

Hm, maybe there's a song about that sort of thing?  Heck, maybe there's even another song about this sort of thing?

(For a long time I've wanted to do a Self Help Radio about someone not being appreciated for his or her sense of humor, but alas! it's not a common subject matter for songs.)

& you know what?  It's not just me repeating the Chico Marx line!  No sir.  It's me riffing as well.  For example, I mentioned that the hardest part of our taxes was discovering our Fort Worth.  Get it?  Because we live in Fort Worth!  & because the word "worth" is...  Oh, never mind.

You're about as much fun as my wife.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Well Comix?

No, I'm not somehow employed by or otherwise promoting Extra Fabulous Comics but it turned out, entirely serendipitously, the author had two (2!) comics involving a well last week.  & here they are:

Good shit, right?