Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Three Word Review: Best Kitty Ever

Let me preface this by saying my memory is not always reliable. So the events I outline here may or may not have happened the way I relate them. It doesn't matter, because it's my reality.

We picked up Kitty at the animal shelter in the spring of 2002. Cate and I went to pick her out, and I remember her picking us out just as much as we picked her. She batted at me as we walked by her cage, and then bit my hand through the bars. We were smitten. While signing off and paying the fee for her spaying, we learned her name was "Precious". That wouldn't last long. We didn't deliberate, really. We just started calling her "Kitty". It never seemed like a placeholder name...from time to time we thought we'd try a few things on for size. "Gandalf" because she was kind of gray...but she was also kind of a tiger. "Smeagol" because she was sometimes spiteful, and sometimes loving and joyous. "Samwise", but it just didn't fit.

Kitty was Kitty. She was a petite little thing, who took a while to warm up and trust us. More than once, she climbed a tree or got on the roof of the house, and meowed incessantly but wouldn't trust us to take her down. But she always loved the kids, and was always a bit of a booger. She loved to see what you were doing, and then disrupt it--reading, writing, laptop--if she wasn't being paid attention, she'd make sure she got it.

About the time she was starting to settle in and be the queen of the manor she would later become, we agreed to keep my sister-in-law's cat for a few months. Even though Maggie only stayed with us for a short while, Kitty held a grudge for at least a year, not trusting that she was secure in her surroundings, or that we were her people forever.

Then when she was something around five or six years old, everything changed. She became the most loving, trusting cat I've ever known. She'd follow our kids to the bus stop, and come back home when they got on. She'd walk around outside and hang around in the garden while we were working, or under the hammock while we rested. She loved her squirming dirt baths in the road in front of the house; she loved squirming and writhing on the concrete porch, scratching herself in the warmth. She loved sitting under the lilac bush, watching the kids as they played outside.

She also vomited. A lot. For a while, it was nearly every time she ate. It was her most annoying trait, which is pretty minor. She never dumped trash cans (well, at least not until she was in the throes of dementia, within the last six months or so), or left messes on the floor. But stepping in cold cat puke in the middle of the night can make a person forget about the good things for a brief, fleeting moment.

Her best moments were riding on my shoulder (Pirate Kitty), dashing across the lawn furiously when we were sitting out at by the fire on a warm summer evening, and when she cuddled on my hip while I slept.

Last year she started to get clumps in her hair, when grooming began to be a chore. It took us a good long time to catch up with the clumps, cutting them out and combing until she was her beautiful self again, but we did. That's one thing that makes me happy about her last year of life: she came to enjoy being combed, she knew she was loved, and she was happy right to her final days. Ben wasn't able to be with us in the vet's office as we said our final goodbyes, but he did know what was going on, and texted us to tell her he loved her.

I'll miss Kitty. There are sure to be moments where I forget she's gone, and I look to her usual lying places, expecting to see her. I'll be sad when I remember. But I'll be happy, too. She made me happy--she made all of us happy--on a daily basis. Ultimately she was Cate's kitty, and to me the two are kind of inseparable. Some of the emotion I've felt at the loss of Kitty is, I'm sure, tied to the anxiety and anticipation of Cate going away to school in New York next year. I know this. And I know Kitty's pain was short, and it is gone now. And I know when Cate leaves this place next fall, she will have a whole world in front of her, and she'll be able to blossom in a way that this place never allowed. It's all good, but it doesn't always feel that way.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Crazy Days

It was 2015 when I last posted to this space.

My life as a blogger has been sporadic at best, similar to my life as a fitness devotee. On-again-off-again, marked by periods of mostly off-again.

But today is April 1, 2018 and it is the day I have decided to drop off of Facebook. When I posted that I'd be getting off Facebook, it was mostly to give people fair warning that the pages I created for my ski team, as well as a few other things, would go away and they should take any pictures or things they wanted before they went away.

What surprised me was the level of support for what I was doing, as well as the fond wishes and comments saying people would miss me. Now, this is not to be self-congratulatory, but more to appreciate those people who said kind things. Several of them said they'd miss my three-word reviews. Several of them said they'd miss my takes on sports, or music, or current events. And a few just said they'd miss having me around.

Upon reflection, I realized there's still a space for those things if anyone wants to join me.

This is my blog, "There's Always Someone Cooler Than You". I've always had a fantasy that Ben Folds would stumble upon it someday, and leave a comment on the blog whose title I stole from him.

I'd like to make it more of a "thing" in my life--perhaps a place for random thoughts and musings. It's purely vanity. If you don't come in, I'll never notice. But if you do come in, I'd love to know you're here, more so I can keep in touch with people than for my self-gratification. Ultimately, I'll be writing for me, but if you enjoy three-word reviews, this will be the place.

Since my Facebook will be gone later today, I'll be posting notifications of updates on Twitter. Maybe Instagram, if I ever figure out how that's supposed to work.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Three Word Review: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving I stopped in at Mrs. B's after school to pick up some beers for the Holiday. Usually when I go there, it's Friday afternoon and Eli is there. But on this Tuesday, Mrs. B herself was manning the till. Being a Tuesday, they had just received a truck the previous day, so there was new stuff in the store. Among the new things was some limited edition Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, which looked really snazzy in its bottles:

I'm not a huge fan of stouts; I can really take them or leave them. Back when I was on exchange in England during college, I loved having a pint of Guinness for lunch, knowing I was getting the good stuff that you couldn't get back home. The story was that the U.S. got the dregs from Ireland, and that the good stuff stayed on the other side of the Atlantic. I have know way of knowing whether that is true, but I know my pints of liquid bread tasted all the better when I was in England. 

In the intervening years, as I came to know beer better, and came to enjoy other styles much more than Guinness, I kind of forgot about stout. Every now and then I'd have a decent one, but nothing really to make me sit up and take notice. 

Recently I've had a bit of a reawakening, realizing some brewers are doing some pretty great things with stouts. I've particularly enjoyed Founders Breakfast, and a Chocolate Milk Stout from Penobscot Bay Brewery that has won some awards. 

Well anyway, Carol told me that Goose Island (not strictly a craft brewery anymore, but still makers of great beers) had released some ridiculously small number of cases of this stuff to Maine, and she managed to get hold of one of the cases. 

I was intrigued with the bottle, and with the idea of the bourbon barrel aging, and the knowledge that if Goose Island made it, it was likely very good, and with the high ratings it got from Beer Advocate. But at $8+ for a fairly small bottle, and little assurance that I'd like it, I passed. I took home a nice Ommegang Dubbel, knowing I'd be very happy with it.

Between the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and today, I've kicked myself over that decision numerous times. I came to the conclusion that I really wanted to try it. So today, after ski practice, I beat a quick path to Mrs. B's door, and found a few bottles still there. Yes, there are a few bottles still there, and let me tell you now, if you're a stout fan, stop reading this and go get one of them. It's more important than reading the rest of this review. 

By 8:45 or so, my bottle was chilled, and I was home for the evening, and I popped the bottle. This stuff is like motor oil: thick, syrupy, bourbon-smelling, sweet, motor oil. I know that doesn't sound appetizing, but it's perfect for this beer. It's boozy, with an ABV of about 13.5%, which makes it an Imperial Stout. It's delicious. It's a sipper. It's worth sipping, so you can try to figure out all the flavors in there. I can't, but I'm enjoying the attempt. As I write this, I have about a half a pint glass remaining, and another half in the bottle. In all, it's about a pint and a half for about $8. Not cheap, but worth every penny.

Carol, sometimes I'm glad I let you talk me into things. 

My three word review for Goose Island Bourbon County Stout: Stouts are back!

Scott Weiland

A very quick post this morning, on the passing of Scott Weiland.

I never was a Stone Temple Pilots fan. Most of their music was a little too far on the grunge side of things for me, at a time when I was much more power-pop. It's an early 90's thing. But Scott Weiland also fronted the band that produced "Interstate Love Song", which is one of the finest pieces of, well, power-pop, ever created. And it abides by my most enduring law, at just over 3 minutes: always leave them wanting more.

I hope Scott was able to find some peace in his fairly short and apparently troubled life. I know there are people who are left behind, still wanting more.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Someday, I suppose...

I took a break from Facebook earlier tonight.

If I can stand it, I hope it's a more-or-less permanent break. There are things on there that I kind of "have to" use it for, to maintain communications with groups of people and such, but overall, I just don't need it any more. I don't need to share my opinions with people I know longer know. I don't need to pretend to be the "friend" of someone with whom I was only slightly acquainted at a much earlier time in life, when we were much different people, and we still weren't very close.

It's not that I don't value these people, or think they are worthy. It's kind of cool to see what some of my old high school acquaintances became, what they did with their lives. It would be great to see these things at a high school reunion, where we could pretend to remember stories about each other, and then go our separate ways. Later we could think about the evening and think "Hey, I didn't like him all that much in high school, but he turned out to be a pretty good guy". Then we could maybe meet a friend of a friend sometime way down the road, and be reminded that we each turned out pretty well. And all we'd have to remember is that vague feeling of each other's mutual decency.

But in this age of Facebook and social networking, we are still connected, long past our relationships' natural shelf lives. We still have to see each other far more than we ever would in real life. And even when we've long since "unfollowed" some of these people, their attitudes and opinions still show up and rear their ugly heads long after we stopped caring about what these people thought. And pretty soon our musings and comments that were intended for friends and like-minded people from our nowadays-lives are highjacked by ghosts from the past. Oh, him? I forgot he existed!  And pretty soon, we're tiptoeing around the feelings of people who just recently intruded on our own lives, trying to get along, justifying our own opinions and trying to make nice.

Tonight I finally had enough. For one thing, no one really needs to care what I think about anything. But if they do, having a blog is perfect. They can take it or leave it. If they don't like what I have to say, they can just ignore it. If they choose not to ignore it, and decide to leave snarky feedback, I can just delete the feedback.

So if you're with me, welcome. For some reason, a few people still want to hear what I have to say about some things. I'll talk about music here. I'll talk about beer. I'll talk about things I love, things I hate, and whatever else I feel like I need to say. Sometimes I'll even try to leave things better than I found them. Please feel free to disagree with me, but don't try to change my mind. My mind is changed gradually, over time.

Oh, and about the title of this blog: I've been a fan of Ben Folds for quite some time. I've always been a little bit snotty about my tastes. A little bit opinionated and superior. As I've aged I've kind of realized I'm not as cool as I thought I was, and that there is, indeed, always someone cooler than me. And I've come to a point where that's just fine with me. My one dream is to make this blog just big enough that Ben Folds hears about it someday. He contacts me, and being the cool guy I imagine he is, he checks in to see if it is: a) worthy of his song, and b) making any money. I assure him that if I ever make any money from it (yeah, right), I will either pay him royalties, or cease and desist. He's cool with that, and my blog goes on to never make any money, but he becomes a regular reader and commenter.

Is it creepy for me to have a Ben Folds fantasy?

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Mom is in Brewer now, in a memory care facility.

She went there in late July, after her numbers, then her words, then her memory, and finally her sense of reality began to fail her. It was a painful decision to make, but all evidence I have tells me it was the right decision to make.

Ever since things began to go south for her, I've had dreams that made me question her condition:  we have conversations just like when I was a teenage kid, in need of guidance or just a sympathetic ear. Mom in my dreams is the Mom I grew up with, lucid, kind, and one of the most intelligent people I know. It's painful to see this degradation occurring.

Today we went to visit Mom at Woodlands, where she has people around her who are going through the same things. There are staff who lead activities that she seems to enjoy; she always enjoyed watching people before, and even when the activities don't seem to interest her now, she still seems to enjoy watching people.

We brought a couple of bags of candy to her today, along with some sweaters to wear outside as the weather gets cooler. Woodlands has a nice little courtyard where the residents often like to step outside. When we arrived, Mom was seated in the common area, asleep in a chair. The young attendant woke her, and when she saw me she stood up slowly, and gave me a big hug. "I love you!", she said. One of the most lucid phrases I've heard in months from her. After she saw Rach and the kids, and gave them all hugs, we gave her the bags of candy and the sweaters and started to walk the halls of the facility.

She was trying to tell us about someone who'd had two babies in visiting, and seemed to be taking us on a search to find them. It is possible they'd been there recently, and it's possible they were there days or weeks ago. It's hard to know at this point, because Mom has lost the ability to communicate details like that on command. It might come out later on, in random conversation, and no one will know what she's trying to communicate. Early on the frustration of knowing she had something to say, but that it was becoming more and more difficult for her to do so, seemed to be really troubling her. We've come to a point where it doesn't seem to matter or to register with her that her thoughts are seldom finished.

I took the candy and the sweaters to her room and dropped them off, then we walked the halls for a little while, in search of something (the babies?), but I'm not sure what. Then we went out on the gazebo for fifteen minutes or so and talked. This mostly consisted of us just reciting the things happening in our lives recently, and talking about the people who we knew had visited recently. From time to time she would ask an undefined question, and we did our best to give an answer that sounded like it might answer what we thought she was asking about. For the most part she seemed satisfied.

But then she got up pretty abruptly and led us back inside. She was looking for something, but we were unclear about what she was looking for. We wandered around for a while and tried to sit down and talk in a family area, but she was still pretty distracted by what she was looking for. She said the word "two" a couple of times, and gestured something small. I assumed it was the babies she was looking for.

After a while, a fellow resident took her by the arm and they walked around for a while. Mom seemed--well, actually a little happy. It was the first time I've seen her seem at home. She was no longer agitated about whatever she was missing, and she was just sharing the walk with someone else she seemed to like. We took the cue to leave while she was happy and not begging to come with us. Three of us have pretty bad colds, so we didn't want to infect the entire place, either.

On the way home, somewhere around Carmel or Newport or somewhere like that, Rach said: "It was the candy." Two bags of candy. They were small. She was looking for the bags of candy. I'm hoping she stumbles upon them, like serendipity, with no memory of the angst she had while looking for them. There are a lot of wishes I have these days.

Monday, July 29, 2013

It Was a Great Time to Be a Saxophonist

Man, I'm bad at this blogging thing. One year and one month ago I posted about Space Camp, and promised it wouldn't be another whole year until I posted again. Guess what...

I even started a WordPress blog a few weeks back, hoping a change of servers would get me back in the game. It didn't. I'm a stinky blogger. When I went back in today, I found that my WordPress username isn't being recognized, and neither are any of my passwords, so I've decided to come back to Blogger. Hope I don't overwhelm their servers.

Anyway, I've been giving lots of thought to my blogging tendencies lately, and have come up with the following observation: no one really cares what I have to say, so I don't have to worry about what I write about! I have the freedom of irrelevance. A forty-five year old guy doesn't have much for a hipness factor. I'm not really on the cutting edge of anything, except nostalgia. I can go on for quite a while about the pitfalls of aging if you want, as I watch my parents' health deteriorate. That could make for some serious belly laughs. Even my kids don't provide quite the same fodder as they used to; sophomores and eighth graders are pretty self-sufficient and aren't quite as prone to malapropisms or missed meaning the way they used to be. They are, however, pretty funny and awesome in their own rights, and I would much rather read what they have to say than anything I write. We'll work on that.

But today I think I'll write about something near and dear to my heart: 80's music.

A couple weekends ago, the family and I were crammed into the pickup, dropping off a bed for my mother for her new room at Woodlands Memory Unit. But I don't want to get off on a tangent on my parents' aging...

On the radio (yes, sometimes we still listen to the radio, rather than plugging in an mp3 player) there was a re-run of the American Top 40 from July 24, 1982. Casey Kasem's voice sounded as vital as it did bak then (probably because it was recorded, well, BACK THEN...) and far better than Ryan Seacrest's ever did.

You know what I found, as my son cringed uncomfortably in the back seat, and I sang along shamelessly to songs that (for good reason, it turns out) I'd forgotten existed? EVERY SINGLE SONG HAD A SAX BREAK. Do you remember the early 1980's, when saxophone equaled emotion? Kind of the same way cello=emotion these days? Strangely, all it took was a bar of each of the songs for me to say "Oh, yeah, 'HEY, PLAY THE GAME TONIGHT/CAN YOU TELL ME IF IT'S WRONG OR RIGHT/IS IT WORTH THE TIME, IS IT WORTH THE FIGHT?/CAN YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE BRIGHT SPOT LIGHT/AND PLAY THE GAME TO-OO-NIGHT...' ", while my wife looked at me quizzically, saying "I honestly have no recollection of this song."*

Beyond that, I was struck by how horribly unadventurous the music was. They were the Top 40 songs in America for that week, and there were maybe ten that were worth remembering. That was somewhat reassuring to me. Back then, the Top 40 was what I lived for. I listened every week. I was just beginning to follow more underground music (I literally cheered when artists on this particular countdown such as Kim Wilde, Human League, Haircut 100, Soft Cell and the Motels made the countdown)** but I was still a Top 40 kid. 

But I could name you hundreds of artists now who were much more influential and important than most of these Top 40 artists, but who rarely, if ever, made the countdown. My education as a music buff went far beyond Casey Kasem. And this is encouraging to me now, as I watch my students, and sometimes my own child, idolize the crappiest music out there. I could tell them they won't remember One Direction thirty years from now, but they won't believe me. However, I have faith that their tastes will, for the most part, improve with time. Their horizons will expand. And yet some of them, will still line up for that 1D/Jonas Brothers/Hanson triple bill tour in 2043. I hope they have fun, and are ridiculed roundly by their kids.

But it really dawned on me, the early 80's were a great time to be a sax player. 

*I don't think this song had a sax break. But I don't want to listen to find out.
**Okay, so not every song had a sax break. But most of them did.