A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Friday, July 17, 2015

Stormy In Love

                                         Cloudy looking adorable, as usual
                                         Best friends for life!

I usually don't revisit a story I've written about before, but the response to my recent column about Stormy, the plucky little kitten who was rescued after being trapped for four days in a storm drain in Oakland, was so positive, I thought you'd like an update.
Stormy is in love! He has a girlfriend!
Ten days after he was rescued and settled into his foster home at Gail Churchill's house in Alameda, another kitten, a longhaired gray-and-white female two weeks younger than Stormy, was rescued in Hayward.
She had a bad case of the runs. That's not surprising: Homeless kittens are often so desperate for food, they'll eat anything they find, whether it's good for them or not. But a trip to the vet quickly cleared that up.
She was also painfully shy, and that's not surprising either, considering the scary life she was facing every day on the streets.
When she arrived at Gail's house, Gail set her up in a large dog crate on the kitchen table, to help her acclimate to her new environment.
Within minutes, Stormy was up on the table, trying to get into the crate. His little paws would go between the bars, and he'd extend them as far as he could to touch the new kitten.
Meanwhile, she was carrying her toys over to Stormy as little gifts. Instead of roaming the entire house, as he loved to do before, Stormy refused to budge from right next to her crate.
After a few days of this so-near-yet-so-far mutual admiration society, Gail put them together. And they've been inseparable ever since. They eat together, they sleep together, they play together, they patrol the house together.
The little girl's fur is so soft and fluffy, it looks like cumulus clouds. So, all things considered, it was obvious what to name her: Cloudy.
The biggest change since she was rescued is that her shyness had turned into spunkiness. She kicks Stormy's butt 24/7, and he loves every minute of it. And they both purr nonstop.
Both of them are extremely affectionate with people, so whoever adopts them had better be prepared for lots and lots of face and neck kitty kisses.
"It's a match made in heaven!" says Gail. "They're a bonded pair that must be adopted together."
No kidding. After the horrors that each of them endured for their first few weeks of life, it would be the height of cruelty to split them up from they only friend they've ever had.
Cloudy and Stormy were spayed and neutered, respectively, earlier this week. (Sorry, this will be a strictly Platonic romance. There are too many unwanted kittens out there already.) And they'll be ready for adoption this weekend.
You can check them out on the website of Island Cat Resources & Adoption, the wonderful volunteer group that made all this happen, www.icraeastbay.org. That's also where you can make a donation to help future Stormys and Cloudys, if you're so inclined.
I just love happy endings, don't you?
P.S. As heartwarming as this story is, these two kittens should never have been born. And they wouldn't have if people had been responsible and gotten their own cats fixed. So do the right thing, cat lovers!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Remembering The Snake

(Above: Freddy and Kenny. Photo by the great Ron Riesterer.)

It's been several days since Kenny Stabler died, but the sadness hasn't abated. And now I'm feeling another emotion, too: anger.
It's an outrage that he wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame. His numbers compare favorably with the other great quarterbacks of his era – Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach, all of whom are in the hall.
So why wasn't he elected? Because he was blackballed by an influential member of the Hall Of Fame selection committee, Sports Illustrated senior writer Paul Zimmerman, who declared, "Ken Stabler won't get my vote as long as I live."
It wasn't The Snake's performance on the field he objected to; it was what he did off the field. To put it mildly, he had an eye for the ladies. (He used to joke that he studied the game plan by the light of the jukebox.)
But so did Namath and Bobby Layne, as well as his favorite receiver, Fred Biletnikoff, who often joined him in his late night adventures. They're all in the hall.
And for all his off-field carousing, when it came time to play the game nobody was more clutch than The Snake.
He was the king of the last-minute comebacks. John Madden said there was no other quarterback he would want to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line and time running out.
Some of the most famous plays in football history are Stabler touchdowns, including the Ghost to the Post, the Sea of Hands, and the Holy Roller against San Diego in 1978. Trailing by a touchdown with 10 seconds to go at the Chargers 24, he was about to be sacked, so he "accidentally" fumbled the ball forward, and it rolled and rolled and rolled until Dave Casper finally fell on it in the end zone for the game winner.
Here's the classic call of the late, great Bill King: "There's nothing real in the world anymore! The Raiders have won the football game! Fifty-two thousand people, minus a few lonely Raider fans, are stunned! The Chargers are standing, looking at each other, looking at the sky. They don't believe it! Nobody believes it! I don't know if the Raiders believe it! It's not real! A man would be a fool to ever try and write a drama and make you believe it. And now, this one will be relived - forever! Bitterly here in San Diego, joyfully in Oakland. Final score: Oakland 21, San Diego 20!"
As Madden said, "The hotter the situation, the cooler he got." Just before the Ghost to the Post, when everyone in the stadium, including Madden, was freaking out, Stabler calmly looked at the frenzied crowd and drawled, "The fans are sure getting their money's worth today, John." Then he went out and won the game.
He hasn't been among the finalists since 2003, and the situation isn't likely to improve because the committee members are now drawn from a new generation who never saw him play.
But when they sit down to make their selections, they are always told that the crucial question is "Can the history of the game be told without him?"
In Stabler's case, my answer is: Are you kidding?
Now, let's talk about Jim Plunkett.