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saddest blog post ever…

April 9th, 2013 by

We said a final goodbye to our eldest boy yesterday.

George was a brave cat. He had been fighting lymphoma for over three years; much longer than any of his doctors said he would survive. But eventually, the disease and his chemotherapy-compromised immune system wore him down. Yesterday was a bad day for him; the worst he had ever had, and it was time.

I’m especially gutted, because I wasn’t able to be there. I was in Tennessee, picking up some veneer for future projects, including some that we hoped George would be able to climb on and enjoy the view from. We knew it was coming, but it happened suddenly, and it would have been only selfish and cruel to keep him hanging on until I could return home. I was able to give him a few head rubs and whisker strokes on the morning that I left for the trip, so I do have some closure, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t gut-wrenchingly painful to know, as I was driving back, that I would never see him again.

Because we knew the end was near, we had made arrangements with a vet that specializes in euthanasia house calls. George was able to lay in a sunbeam on the carpet in our bedroom, and sniff the spring air through an open screen door, and be petted by his mom as he left us. So much better than yet another irritating, car sick, agitated trip to the vet.

I’ll always remember the first time he walked over my head, and shoulders, and down my chest, and curled up in my lap. (Because of his size, he often approached people from above, rather than from the more traditional cat direction. Plus, it was always very clear to him that he truly was in his rightful place when he was above a human.) It was when I had only known Laura for a couple weeks, and she told me later that she knew right then that I must be an OK guy, because her guardian trusted me and liked me.

I’ll miss his gentle request, via a single paw laid on my hand, to be petted. I’ll miss him walking on me when he wanted to be fed. I’ll even miss the times that he scared me half-to-death by coming silently into my office, standing up on his hind legs while I sat at the computer, and tapping me on the shoulder with his paw. (He was a very large cat!)

Time and disease kept him from doing that lately, and he was pretty lean and weak as of late, but here is a picture of him in better times; the way I will always remember him.

Rest in Peace buddy; I’ll always miss you.



September 26th, 2010 by

As we drove across the U.S., covering darn near every inch of Interstate 40 from California to North Carolina, we entertained ourselves (when we weren’t talking to the cats) in whatever ways were available.  Sometimes all it took was looking out the windshield and paying attention to the signs passing us by.  If you’ve ever undertaken a ginormous road trip, and driven for long hours at a stretch day after day, you’ll understand why some of these made us buck and snort (see a reference below to a small town in Tennessee famous for its wildly muscled, heavily gyrating professional athletes).  Kevin threatened to undertake the challenge of dining at the first place bulleted below, which is apparently famous for offering a huge meal for free if you can eat it all in an hour and a half.  As it turned out, he wasn’t hungry when we drove by.

These are listed in no particular order, other than grouping them by what seem like common topics.

  • 72ounce steak—FREE FREE FREE (in my delirium, I thought it said FLEE FLEE FLEE).  Warning: clicking on the link to this fine dining establishment will produce musical accompaniment your boss or cubicle-mate may not enjoy.
  • Clean restrooms!  Large clean restrooms!  (we looked at each other and wondered aloud about the lack of any other selling point for a place to stop)

For spiritual inspiration:

  • check out the Texas Catholic Superstore (interesting that the link to the site does not have a .org suffix; making a profit off Jesus?)

..and remember that

  • Jesus Christ is not a swear word (we saw this, in big letters, on the side of a truck)

and when you’re hungry, don’t forget to

  • Come get a Heavenly Burger!  (on the sign for a bible store/Baptist restaurant)The Roadkill Cafe, Seligman, AZ

…of course, if one were not inclined toward God’s food, one could also eat at the Road Kill Café in New Mexico

In the mood to buy?  For sale, we saw:

  • Quilts 9 – 5, RVs Welcome (on the side of a barn)
  • and a few choice lots in Hawg Lake, just call the realtor
  • Perhaps our favorite sign combo,  toward the end of our trip, just before entering Tennessee:  in big bold letters, Guns! right next to Bootlegger’s Discount Liquor and Wine; the two always go great together

Welcome to our state!  Now behave:

In Oklahoma, the welcome sign read:  home of Roger Miller, King of the Road (does anybody still remember that song?)

Then, entering Arkansas:

  • A Warm Welcome to Arkansas, the Natural State

closely followed by

  • Speed Limit Laws Strictly Enforced, No Tolerance.

In other words, we’re glad to see ya, now slow the f**k down (we saw a lot of tolerant drivers in the Natural State).

Some enticing parks and their scenic sites:

  • Pig Trail Scenic Byway (we are, emphatically, not making these up; I include links here for the skeptical) in the Ozark National Forest
  • Toad Suck Park, in AR
  • Mouse Tail Landing outside Memphis in a Tennessee state park.  According to the TN state parks’ website, the name comes from mice turning tail when a tannery burned on the site during the Civil War.
  • Frozen Head State Park outside Knoxville; named, perchance, for a cryogenics experiment gone awry?  No, it has more to do with a natural formation than something unnatural.

A Town Name that made us laugh out loud:

Bucksnort TN (perhaps named before there was a written language so as to describe it phonetically).  Wikipedia tells us Bucksnort is the home of two or three professional wrestlers, including Dirty White Boy and Bunkhouse Buck.

well, that was easy…

September 21st, 2010 by


Whew! OK, not easy exactly, but we’ve finally done it. After all variety of crises, including medical, transportation, realty, mechanical et al, we have finally managed to free ourselves from the gravitational field of the West Coast and make it to North Carolina!

Granted, I’m writing this while sitting on a plane that is flying to Los Angeles, but let’s not let that factoid sully our victory lap, OK? There is a perfectly good reason for my rapid return: I have to go see a man about a truck. We’ll let you know how that one turns out in another post.

But back to the festivities at hand; we survived — and dare I say even enjoyed — our epic RV-based cat-conveying trek across the heartland. (By the way, if the Midwest and Central states are “the heartland”, then what are the coasts? Do we now live in “the spleenland”? Feel free to discuss among yourselves.)

Luckily, our latest delay allowed us to find a great guy named Steve who is a professional driver. He brought the RV to us from North Carolina, so we did not need to do the two-way shuttle of the land yacht that we had planned previously. With the benefit of hindsight, let’s just say that Steve’s contribution was much appreciated. 3,000 miles of I-40ness was quite enough for us in one sitting.

My lovely bride is a truckin’ mama at heart, and was a tremendous help with the driving, navigation and RV park coordination for the whole trip. (Well, the “shortcut” through Pigeon Forge might have been a bit of a reach, but we’ll just chalk that up to an exploration of cultural diversity and leave it at that…) She’s the best, and I’ve almost got her convinced that we could be a husband/wife over-the-road team as our second career should Fred experience major cost overruns.


Our most precious cargo tolerated the eastward journey very well. We ended up putting them (and us) in a hotel for the two days that the movers did their thing in California. Once the house was stripped bare, we transferred them to the RV and set off. The RV had a bench seat along its right side that held all of the fellas’ carriers very nicely, and allowed us to keep an eye on them as we rolled down the highway. Gus stayed true to character, which means that he carried on a fairly consistent monologue of commentary on matters of the day, laced with a protestation every once in awhile when he felt that the radio was too loud, the road too bumpy, or the road noise too voluminous. Gus likes to talk. I have no idea where he gets that from.

George was unruffled, as expected, with the added benefit that it seems the RV does not make him carsick. (I suppose that would technically be RVsick, no?) In any event, he wasn’t, and that was a pleasant and welcome surprise, as it’s the first time in our memories that his long-haired Maine Coon-ness hasn’t required a BP offshore-esque clean-up effort after transport.

The guy that we were most worried about was my buddy Jack, who possesses nerves of zinc. Amazingly, he was actually pretty calm throughout the trip. Granted, when faced with a new environment, he still proceeded with great caution, complete with lowered tail and ground-hugging abdominal region, hence his new nickname: Abraham Slinkin. In every case though, he recovered from slinkinmoden (I think that’s the German term for his disorder) within an hour or so and avoided the quivering fear-induced paralysis from which he has previously suffered.

The RV itself was surprisingly easy to drive, given that it’s 31 feet in length and sprung like a ten-year-old mattress at a Motel 6. Other than one mechanical scare that came about ten yards into the journey — it stalled going down our 14% grade street and therefore lost both power brakes and steering — its performance was flawless throughout the trip. It almost got us thinking about buying one.


Now onto the task of making our last ever rental house a home. As we enter the close of the ‘pre-Fred’ era, I feel closer than ever to our loving and somewhat furry family. As the spare tire cover on the jeep that we saw for three consecutive days of our trip so aptly said:

Life is good.

cats on a cool screened porch

September 18th, 2010 by

Two cats on the porchWe (well, really I) were so worried they’d have trouble adjusting to a 3,000 mile move to a new house that we 1) rented an RV to move them in, so they wouldn’t be freaked out by airports and changing planes; 2) found someone, namely a friend of my good friend Lin, to drive the RV here from North Carolina for us; 3) spent nearly a week in said RV with them as we drove it from Castro Valley, CA to Chapel Hill, NC, with all the hilarity and close-quarters messiness you can imagine that would provide, and 4) rented hotel rooms at both ends of the trip so as to be certain they wouldn’t escape and be lost to us as we loaded up our belongings into an enormous truck and then unloaded them at the other end.

SO……….here they are, or two of them at least, looking really scared, right?  Right.  Chillin’ on the porch, watching the birds and deer that float by outside.  Sniffing the interesting-smelling air of a promising North Carolina morning.  Gus and George, right to left, cool as cucumber cats, posing for pictures.

Now all we have to do is find some land and build a house.