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So Long Oskar, Rescue Cat!

I have posted a few times about my adventure this autumn with Oskar.

Oskar was a beautiful long haired, orange cat with rather stunning green eyes. In the warmer months, he used to sleep in my back yard on the roof of a shed. It is sunny there for the entire day and being high up, he could survey his surroundings without being bothered by unwelcome disruptions, or as the mood hit, he could just snooze. In short, it was a perfect spot for a cat, and more than once, I admired how peaceful he was there. A few other cats prowl around the yard from time to time, but none would bother Oskar. He was the king.. And like a king, he came and went as he pleased. We imagined that his owner let him out in the morning, and then took him back in when the sun down. Of course, like all civilized cats, he stayed indoors in the colder months.

For a few years, he would not let us come close, but rather suddenly, that changed. One day, he walked up to my ex (who is very good with cats), plopped down in front of her, and rolled over to show her his tummy. And so, we became friends. When we were in the yard, he would come up to say hello before sauntering off on his way.  He would disappear for a while, but he always reappeared sooner or later. And one could be forgiven for getting the impression that it was his yard. We were his guests.

Then around September this year, just after the apple harvest, he appeared at my back door looking really bad. He obviously had not eaten in a while and he had two rather ugly wounds, one on each side of his neck. To this day, I have no idea how this came about. But obviously, something terrible had changed in his life. I gave him food, and gradually took him into the house.

Once in the house, he needed a good name! After some rumination, I thought of “Bruno”, but that was nixed by my ex. I settled on Oskar. My ex, added the Estonian shortening “Oshu”. Then she said “Bruno” might be better. Too late! He was officially a family member as Oskar, Oshu. I felt a certain responsibility to care for him, and my heart opened to him. His story became our story. And each day I would share that story with family – what Oskar was doing, how he was doing, and what progress we were making to gt him back on his feet.

After he settled in, we took him to the vet to find out what ailed him. It was a moment of truth, as we had no idea what his health was, though by looking athim, you could tell there were, shall we say, issues. I was very nervous about his condition.The vet warned me that he was not well. He had a severe infection, and his kidneys were pretty much shot to hell. The only good news was that he was not in any pain. I thought, ok, let’s do the best we can. Maybe we can cheat death for a while! I took the heroic pose.

To put it mildly, Oskar did not like the oral meds squirts that I needed to give him, and he let me know in no uncertain terms. He was especially frightened by being held still. Probably it reminded him of something bad that had happened to him. But never mind! We got rid of the infection! There was just the remaining problem of those wonky kidneys.

I hoped that at this point we might relax a bit and that Oskar would at least make it through the winter so that he could once more climb up to his favorite spot on the roof of the garden shed. In the meantime, he found a new perch — on the window sill in the living room. It was warm there (from the radiator below the window) and he had a view of the passersby on the street. That was his “go to” spot. And he showed that he was feeling at home in the house. He had the odd habit of jumping on my back when I bent forward, and once he leaped into the fridge to perch on a shelf there.  I propped the door open until he jumped out.

One other vignette. One day early on, Oskar called out to me. I went downstairs to see what was wrong, and Oskar led me downstairs to his cat box. When I got there, he looked at me and ran back up the stairs. He was showing me that I had not cleaned the litter box. It was time to get to work, human! Hmmm … a civilized cat indeed!

Things were  good, but not perfect. Oskar had trouble sleeping, and would call out for me in the middle of the night. I would pick him up and we walked around the house together until he calmed down again. And as the vet predicted, he had trouble eating. He was not gaining weight. That was a bad sign. But I held out hope that somehow, he might still make it.

Hanging on until summer was not in the cards. Late yesterday afternoon, Oskar went out the backdoor. This was unusual, as he usually only would venture out at night and then just for a short while. And this time, he did not return. I left the door open all night and every hour or so called out for him. Only the cold wind and rain answered me. As of this morning, Oskar has not come back.  I walked the entire yard calling for him, and looked into all of the nooks and crannies in the garage, to no avail.  It is still possible that he will reappear. But something inside me knows that he left to go meet his maker.

Now I understand Oskar’s late night fears a bit better. He could feel in his body that the end was near. He was afraid of what was coming, and he held onto me hoping that I could make it better.  I tried, but I could not change the way things were. All we could do was hold onto each other and walk slowly from room to room feeling a tight bond of friendship. And now, suddenly, it is over.

I have to tell myself that from the start I knew it would work out this way. We were fated to have just a limited time together. I knew that. But reason and logic be damned,  I miss my friend.

Scallops with Jalapeno Vinaigrette? Wow!

A recipe upgrade!

I have been pan searing scallops for years. And usually, I just squirt a bit of lemon over them. But tonight I thought I would go a bit further – and make a jalapeno vinaigrette. I got the idea from my upgraded weekly menu (where i am pulling in links to videos I scarf up from the internet). This one is from Chef John at Food Wishes.

The Jalapeno Vinaigrette was awesome even without the orange slices! Try it!

Pam Starr Wants You to Visit Her Vineyard!

She is one of the proud wine makers of Napa at  Crocker & Starr

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The vineyard is Pam Starr’s playground and a deep source of pride. With her partner, Charlie Crocker, she revitalized an estate whose history dates back to the 1870s. Unlike most Napa Valley wineries that launch with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pam followed her passions, launching with 100 cases of Cabernet Franc, and expanding into Sauvignon Blanc, also an unexpected choice.

Check it out!

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Why I Dislike Stories about the Wild West

In the early 20th century, Hollywood film makers seized onto an engaging idea. They would offer a fantasy based vision of freedom and excitement. And they did that by mythologizing what we call the “wild west”.

To be clear, they did not create this myth. They merely used it for their own purposes.

It was a great story line that contrasted nicely with how people really lived (where bu and large. propriety ruled). And that great story line needed great heroes. Men and women who were larger than life. Enter, John Wayne and others. Here is John Wayne in action

There is a sense of power and integrity in Wayne’s performance. He did the right thing. That was what heroes in the Wild West did, right?

Of course, Wayne was not the only western hero. Remember the great gunfight story in the movie “Shane”?

They story line is usually about how a great figure “tames” the wild west by imposing tough law. Law through the barrel of a gun. That takes us to the mythical figure of Wyatt Earp, law man. Here are some scenes from the great movie Tombstone that is based on the mythology

So what is wrong here? How could I not like this stuff? My problem is not so much that this stuff has little to do with the realities of the wild west. My problem is that it reinvigorates a rather old and rather dangerous proposition. That proposition is that talk is cheap. If you want to solve a problem, find the bad guy and kill him. Great stories are about identifying the bad guy and killing him.

So whoa are the bad guys these days? You find out quickly when you read the news. If you are a Trump supporter? If you are a democrat? There are bad guys running around all over the place. Indeed, one might go a bit crazy worrying about whether your neighbor is one of them.

And some people do go nuts.

So where is the sense of humor here? Where is the sense of humanity? This story line shuts both off. It glorifies a “dog eat dog” view of the world. It is a view that we have seen more regularly than you might imagine. How about a bit of Clint Eastwood

One has to wonder why this silliness is not recognized for what it is — silly. If we saw it as satire, we might appreciate the stories more. Like this

There was a movie that made fun of this genre. It was “Little Big Man” starring Dustin Hoffman. It was not subtle.

Kubrick saw the absurdity of this and depicted in in Dr. Strangelove (BTW, I love the title of that film). Just for fun, here is the great moment when nuclear war is unleashed by valiant air force soldiers who have no idea what they are doing

The message of that film is clear. We live this story line at our own peril. But how much as that message resonated these days? I don’t see it.

One more thing. The real bad guys in the world LOVE this mythology. They love it because it justifies what they do – coerce people. Makes you wonder, right?

As a story teller, I am aware that one needs opposition to make stories palatable. You cannot have Achilles without Paris and Hector. But I think the opposition used in the above thread of stories lacks nuance. It lacks the comfortable feeling we need that real people are basically ok. That more than enough opposition arises from what reality throws at us. We don’t need to “dumb down” in order to be entertained.

What do you think?

Ah, the Corks at the Savoy! Who Knew they Live on!

Editor’s Note — Is the word “corks” in the title a typo? Should it have been “cooks”? Like the great Escoffiet who once worked at the Savoy? BTW, did you know that Escoffier was fired from the Savoy in a scandal over his “cooking the books”?

The answer is “nyet!”” This was no typo! I dare to write about corks! Try to stop me!

Yes, the Savoy has an amazing history and reputation. It is a special place for those reasons. But did you know

It now works in partnership with Laithwaites Wines to collect and carefully sort the natural corks used in the hotel. Most of the corks are shredded into garden “mulch” and spread over Laithwaites’ Berkshire vineyard to keep weeds at bay, but others are made into display boards by students at a local special educational needs school and sold to raise money for the Prince’s Trust charity.

Check out this link for more on the Savoy! I like it!

And then there is the “bee hotel”!

Trump Nearly Got Away With his Ukraine Extortion

The fact that a sitting US president tried to extort a foreign leader to help him get reelected is shocking enough. Even worse is that but for the whistle blower, we may never have found out about it- From WP

Dozens of senior officials were aware of or involved in President Trump’s shadow foreign policy on Ukraine. It is not clear whether any of it would have come to light were it not for a memo from a relatively junior CIA employee, who is now the target of almost daily attacks by Trump and right-wing efforts to make his identity widely public. (emphasis added)

In other words, Trump was aided and abetted by a core group of senior officials and others (like Rudy) who knew about what was going on, and not only kept it secret, they were actively plotting with him.

Put very simply — these folks should see some jail time. Not just that — you have to wonder whether any of them had actually thought through what they were doing. Did they consider that they were betraying US interests? Did they consider that they were doing this to pursue an outlandish conspiracy theory? You have to wonder.