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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Stupor Bowl

Super Sunday - the day when more money is wagered, more wives are beaten, and more municipal water systems are put to the test by all those toilets flushing simultaneously during the commercials - is only a few days away, and the suspense is mounting.
Not about who will win the game, of course. After 50 years the hype has gotten so big, the game itself has become almost an afterthought.
No, the real suspense is who will ask the dumbest question on Media Day, when the nation's best sportswriters vie for the honor of making the biggest fools of themselves, such as last year, when they kept asking Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, who wouldn't talk to them, "Why won't you talk to us?"
Dare I hope that this year a reporter will ask Cam Newton, as someone did to Doug Williams of the Washington Racialslurs in 1988, "How long have you been a black quarterback?"
Will someone top the cluelessness of the sportswriter who asked Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett (whose parents are both disabled) in 1981, "Lemme get this straight, Jim. Is it blind mother, deaf father or the other way around?"
Or the fashionista who asked Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith in 1991, "What are you going to wear in the game?"
And who can top that divine moment in 2000 when a reporter asked Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse about the religious symbol dangling from his neck, "What's the significance of the cross?"
But if the game is usually a letdown, the halftime show is often worse, featuring either geriatric rockers like the Rolling Stones or Madonna, or more recent stars like Katy Perry, who are all show and no substance. Memo to Roger Goodell: If you've heard of them, it's a good bet they're not hip anymore.
 Let's be honest: What's the only halftime show you remember? Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at Super Bowl XXVIII, of course. And you can bet the NFL won't let that happen again.
I must have been the only person in the country who missed Janet's big moment. As soon as the first half ended and they said the entertainment was going to be her and Justin Timberlake - two people I have less than zero interest in – I started channel surfing and wound up on Bravo, where I saw a show I'd never seen before: "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy."
I was entranced. It was every straight man's ultimate fanatasy: That five gay guys would come into your life and clean up your act so women would finally give you the time of day.
In this episode, the Fab Five convinced a man who was wearing a toupee to own his baldness and burn the wig on the family hibachi. What football game could match that? I stayed glued to the entire episode and the ones that followed, and I didn't find out who won the game until the next day.
But who cares? As Duane Thomas, the Cowboys running back who rushed for XCV yards in Super Bowl VI, when Dallas beat Miami, XXVI to III, said when someone asked him how it feels to play in the ultimate game, “If it’s the ultimate game, how come they’re going to play another one next year?”

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Love Of My Life

                                           Eliza as a kitten
                                         Eliza as an old lady

Believe it or not, I didn't always love cats. In fact, I used to be a cat hater. After all, cats are aloof and unfriendly, right?
Wrong. That's the sign of someone who has never met a cat. But it all changed when I fell in love with a woman who had a cat named K.C., short for Kitty Kat.
For the first six months we lived together I wouldn't let poor K.C. into our bedroom. Then one day she decided enough was enough, and she proceeded to seduce me.
It didn't take long. By the end of the day she had me wrapped around her little paw, proving once again that there's no zealot like a converted sinner.
We became so tight that when my girlfriend and I broke up, she offered to give me the cat. But I knew K.C. would be happier with her mom, so I reluctantly turned her down.
Two weeks after I moved into a new place there was a knock on my door, and when I opened it there were four little kids from the elementary school across the street with a gray tabby kitten so tiny, you could easily hold her in the palm of your hand.
"Mister, did you lose this kitty?" they asked.
"No," I said, "but I'll take her."
And so I met the love of my life (four-footed version). I named her Eliza Doolittle, and from the moment we met it was the greatest love I've ever known. We'd look into each other's eyes, and I knew she knew what I was thinking, and she knew I knew, and so on. I will never have that kind of intimacy again.
She was loving and sweet and absolutely fearless. When I left for work every morning, she'd climb out the bathroom window and into the bedroom of my next-door neighbor Cindy, and curl up in bed with Cindy and her dog Emma.
Then, when Cindy left for her job, Eliza would spend the rest of the day in the back yard, surveying her domain from a tree and slaughtering the seemingly endless supply of mice, which she'd stack like cordwood as a welcome-home present for me when I came home every evening.
Cindy could always tell when I was about to arrive, long before my car hove into view, because she could hear Eliza jump down out of the tree, run across the back yard, jump in the bathroom window, and race the length of the apartment so she would be waiting for me when I opened the front door.
She was my faithful companion, in good times and bad. She taught me the simple joy of loving and being loved. I might have had it over her intellectually, but morally she was my superior in every way.
We were together for almost 17 years until I came home one night and found her lying dead on the floor. That was 20 years ago today.
I've had four more cats since then – Nelly, Phoebe, Sally and Pepe – and I've loved them all dearly. But not a day has gone by
when I haven't thought about Eliza and missed her.
I really hope there is a heaven because when I die, the first thing I want to see is her.