A Life of Servitude

After reading atleasthaveafrigginglass’ post https://atleastihaveafrigginglass.com/2022/03/10/training-myrtle/ about his cat, Myrtle, training him to do her bidding, I was quite gratified to realize that my cats are actually rather benevolent dictators. Unlike Myrtle, my feline overlords are reasonable in their demands and not too severe in meting out punishment.

Shola Ebola is our little sweetheart who sneaks into your lap before you realize you’ve been pinned to your chair. Any attempt to dislodge her is like moving a dead animal. She simply goes limp and gives you a look that says, “I’m quite comfortable right here, thank you.” She came from the neighbors, in heat, and refused to go home after we had her spayed.

Ava Braun is the take-no-prisoners, suffer-no-fools, female Hitler. The dogs are wary of her and the cats show due respect. We pet her cautiously when she demands it, watching carefully for that twitch of displeasure that says a bite will follow. Her elderly staff had died and we took her in when the surviving children threatened to euthanize her. Arriving at her new home, she stepped out of the carrier and was immediately in charge. There was none of the typical cowering under furniture or showing deference to the cats already in residence. She had witnessed her litter mates being devoured by coyotes and watched her beloved benefactor wither and die. Life held no terrors for her.

Jet Lee, our only male, tolerates the females, avoids the dogs, and shows up at meal time, which is about twenty times a day. He demands the costliest of manufactured cat foods, tries to bury the homemade chicken and liver pate that I make for the girls, and will only eat when his bowl is placed in the proper place. His name came from his youthful antics but he’s long since outgrown the moniker.

And last to join our crew is Cholla, so named for the jumping cactus she resembled. This cheeky kitten trotted out of the brush and joined our pack when she was about six weeks old. Too confident and inquisitive for her own good, she is the only one who is not allowed to go outside without a chaperone. Even with supervision, she went over the fence into the neighbor’s dog run. She believes she’s a dog but I doubt the dogs would have recognized her as such. Another time she escaped and came home with one of Mike’s beloved finches in her mouth. That went over like the proverbial turd in a punch bowl.

All things considered, the dogs are easier to please: they eat whatever is put into their bowls; they are happy to stay inside and happy to go out; they eagerly jump into the car even when I tell them we’re going to the vet; they go outside to do their business, though they don’t bury it. We’re working on that last bit. So far they have the hole digging down pat but they haven’t figured out the most important part of the operation.

Weighty Issues

So, the United States Senate has voted unanimously to extend daylight savings time to year round. If it takes something like this to get bi-partisanship, I guess I should graciously accept it but it does make me wonder why this issue is even on the agenda when historically, states have decided what time they want it to be. According to this article in the Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/03/17/senate-time/, many of those voting didn’t even know what they were voting for. My guess is, that’s not uncommon, just based on some of the questionable things the Senate has passed in the past.

Just Another Walk in the Wash

Let me introduce you to a friend about whom I haven’t written before; Karen is a woman who wasn’t easy to like initially. Dishearteningly attractive in a seemingly careless way, she’s slim, fit, and appealing to the men in our cycling group because she can actually keep up with them on a long climb. She’s a kindergarten teacher and has cultivated a sweet way of talking that men just react to like a bee to a heavily pollen-laden flower. I’m betting that her students of twenty years ago still sigh when they think of Ms. Karen. Her charms were not lost on my partner who glowed when she turned her gaze in his direction. So, obviously, I wasn’t that charmed by her since I couldn’t keep up with her, much less hold a conversation with her when I could. As luck would have it, there was an after-ride party planned and I, having decided that jealousy was coloring my opinion of this woman, decided to put myself in the seat next to her and get acquainted. It took about two minutes to discover that we were both avid readers and had more to talk about than the evening would allow. Subsequent conversations revealed that she was caring for an ageing mom, like I was, and Mike’s girlfriend became mine. When our moms died, the friendship was cemented as we grieved together.

So, back to the walk in the wash. Karen agreed to walk with the girls and me before she had to go to work. We set off towards the wash, on my regular turf, at a more brisk pace than we usually go on our own, so I calculated that we would be able to cover what I call the Seadoo loop in the allotted hour. But, the faint coyote trail that I usually take to the Seadoo trail was obscured by spring grasses and I missed it.

The Seadoo trail

The stimulating conversation had distracted me and I found that we had overshot the trail so I headed cross country, with a stern reminder to be wary of snakes. After a short distance, we came to a sharply cut bank that had been carved by last year’s flash floods. Karen and I each picked a descent that appeared to be navigable but hers proved to be unstable, and she fell on her backside and slid down the embankment with some good-sized rocks following her. Thankfully, she regained her feet with nothing more than a bruised bum and we struck a path towards the southern bank.

Within minutes, we were confronted with an old flood control levy that I didn’t recognize. Thinking that climbing to the top of the embankment would allow us to get a better view of the terrain, and get our bearings, we scrambled to the top. This more level area was dotted with cactus, but spurred on by our time constraints, we pushed on in the direction we knew we had to go to get back to the car. After making very little headway, the cactus growing more dense at every turn, I decided that we were totally !@#$ed. We could neither go forward nor retrace our steps without serious danger of getting punctured by either cactus or snakes or both. I told Karen to take my car key and make her way back to the road without me and get to work as fast as possible. I would wend my way back to the sandy wash bottom with the dogs, at my own pace. The dogs were more vulnerable to the cactus than we were because we could step over some of them and they were forced to jump. Molly isn’t much of a jumper.

We parted ways. I was more worried about Karen than I was about the dogs and me because we were in familiar territory and Karen wasn’t. I encouraged Molly to find a way back to the sandy wash bottom and it took her only a couple of minutes to find a coyote trail that wove through the cactus, back to the embankment we had climbed earlier; but since we were considerably farther upstream than where we had climbed out, there didn’t appear to be any safe way down to the wash. Between the proverbial rock and a hard spot, we chose the precarious and precipitous route the coyotes take. A loose, rocky chute led straight down the twenty-foot embankment. Remembering Karen’s fall earlier, I took the seat-of-the-pants stance and crabbed my way down with the dogs following carefully behind.

Now safely in the sandy, rocky wash bed, I texted Karen to make sure she had found her way back to the road and the car. She had made her way through a quarter of a mile of cactus maze, only to be confronted with a six-foot high, chain link fence barring her way. Undaunted, she found a space where the wildlife had made a narrow space under the fence and proceeded to crawl under it. My car, with it’s antiquated emergency brake pedal, on the floor, stymied her briefly, but after accidentally releasing the hood latch, she managed to find it and drive the mile back to my house to retrieve her own car.

My route up the wash bottom was easier going but with cactus quills stuck in both thighs, walking was an uncomfortable affair. As soon as I reached the road, I called Mike to come to pick us up. Quill removal took up the rest of the morning.

Karen reported nothing worse than a few scratches and bruises and, astoundingly, proposed another hike next week, though she added, “Next week, let’s do a walk with a little less adventure. We can save those for less time constraining days!!” See why I enjoy her friendship?

A Change in the Hood

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that my modest (read ramshackle) neighborhood is racially and age diverse which means we enjoy (using the term loosely) the sounds, smells, and sights of other cultures up close and personal. The most noticeable cultural difference between my neighbors and me is their appreciation of noise. Fireworks, loud automobiles, barking dogs, and raucous parties, blaring music at concert level only elicit sighs of resignation among the older contingent who can barely remember those pleasures and now crave the sounds of silence. There’s nothing like tinnitus to hone one’s appreciation of silence.

When I moved into this neighborhood, I was the youngster (twenty). There was a middle-aged family in the house on one side and grandparents on the other side. I’m sure they cringed when they saw us move in with a horse, dogs, cats, and friends who partied until all hours. So, frankly, I deserve whatever I get in my old age.

Over the years, the grandparents to the north died, leaving the house to kids and grandkids who didn’t bear any resemblance to their tidy fore bearers but eventually their deferred maintenance of the property overwhelmed them and they sold the derelict property to me.

Restoration in progress
The gentrification completed

The house to the south was sold a couple of times during my tenure, the last time to a family with two pre-teens who grew into typically obnoxious teens, became adults, moved out, had kids, moved back in with mom and dad along with their dogs and chickens and finally moved out again. Just when it looked like we were going to have a nice quiet, adult neighborhood, they sold their house to live in an RV.

So, we have new neighbors and everyone is watching with bated breath to see what kind of neighbors they will be. Of utmost interest is what kind of person pays $535,000 for a house in this neighborhood?

https://www.redfin.com/CA/Mentone/1358-Opal-Ave-92359/home/3471855

Is it the beginning of gentrification? Despite the glowing description on Redfin, the new owners are busily working evenings tearing out tile and peaking our curiosity about what improvements they have in mind for the recently renovated interior. I’m excited because I can hear them speaking Spanish and have high hopes of having opportunities to practice my limited speaking skills. The vanity plates on the truck in the driveway say, “El Jefe8” (the boss) so I wonder if he’s driving his wife’s truck.