You just never know what you’re going to see driving through Ithaca…
Ali vs. Frazier, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Hatfields vs. McCoys: all are great and enduring contests between strong-willed and unrelenting opponents. So it is with our toothpaste tube contests. Two people locked in matrimony and fevered competition determine who is first to fail squeezing a useful amount of dentifrice from the depleted tube. It is a stark zero-sum struggle with a decisive outcome worthy of Gore Vidal’s alleged assertion that “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”
One combatant is by nature a fiercely competitive woman, equating these contests to no less than a great moral struggle. The other combatant is a man with Scottish blood of a stubborn and frugal characteristic. The shared use of the household’s toothpaste doesn’t always lead to the final days of fierce struggle as paste is depleted, but the circumstance for a struggle is often manifested in unstated but mutually understood escalation. The final days require thorough understanding of tube mechanics and the ability to apply great grip strength to move increasingly scarce molecules from the tube.
So who squeezed out the latest great combat victory, giving the opponent a decisive pasting? Scottish reticence prohibits the victor from unseemly gloating (or enumerating previous victories). Maybe not the new tube of toothpaste, or the next, but it’s inevitable that some tube will eventually provoke another contest, like a great thunderhead preparing to unleash a tremendous fury. Meanwhile we rest. And brush.
Tuesday is garbage day for us. We decided to take out the trash: we joined 150 fellow Tompkins County residents to avoid the rush and stand in line for 1.5 hours for early voting. There were about 200 socially-distanced, masked, and shivering voters in line by the time we left. It was heart-warming to see such a great turnout; it far exceeded what we’ve experienced in previous elections.
It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.Woody Allen
Lori and I enjoyed a tour of the Ithaca City Cemetery led by Christine O’Malley of Historic Ithaca. The cemetery started with its first residents in 1790 and, after a few expansions during Ithaca’s growth, ran out of space and sold the last of its plots in 1930.
Our tour was a fascinating mix of historical developments including headstone technology, restoration efforts, social attitudes toward cemeteries, class distinctions, esthetic trends, and Ithaca history.
In the days before formal city parks were developed, cemeteries were commonly used as appealing green spaces for enjoyment and socializing. This lovely cemetery attracts many visitors every day out for walks in the quiet and peaceful setting. We can see why in our visit on this beautiful Fall afternoon. It’s a wonderful place to spend an hour or an eternity.
Businesses and customers in Ithaca and Tompkins County have been very responsible in observing best practices when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and the health department numbers are a testament to that commitment.
Gimme! Coffee, our favorite among many very good coffee shops in the area, has a sign outside their State Street shop listing the rules: “Wear A Mask, Social Distance, No Shenanigans!”.
Of those three, can you spot the directive that exceeds the CDC guidelines? Yes, No Shenanigans! goes above and beyond the minimal standards for responsible behavior during the pandemic.
We heartily endorse the No Shenanigans! rule and urge other businesses to adopt it as well. In fact, it should be adopted across the board for local, state, and federal government too. Imagine how much better our lives and experiences would be with a universal No Shenanigans! policy in place.
Brilliant, Gimme! Coffee, we applaud you.
Meeko, our beloved cat of 21 years is no more, yielding to inexorable mortality.
Fundamentally she was an archetypal cat, effortlessly mastering essential cat skills. With an almost comical level of athleticism, she could climb almost anything. Two stories up the house, plucking at window screens to be let in at 3am was routine. She was a disturbingly successful and prolific hunter for many years, often attempting (and sometimes succeeding) to bring her trophies into the house. She was highly independent but always came home to keep tabs on us, supplement her mouse-and-bird diet with cat food, and seek out a warm lap for a nap. And use the litter box–she didn’t like to do her thing outside for some reason.
Other traits made her unique. She was terrified of young children, Kirby vacuum cleaners, and cameras pointed at her. She was very clever, learning how to open certain doors herself. She was also very smart. For example, she learned early on that we disapproved of tearing up the furniture upholstery. But the lesson she learned was she shouldn’t do it if we were awake. At night when we were in bed, major un-upholstering projects were undertaken–we lost several pieces to the landfill from her accumulated destruction. But we never caught her doing it in the act because that would be wrong.
She hated trips to the vet. Getting her into a cat carrier was a multi-day highly-stressful operation for us. We would quietly conspire some elaborate choreography to surprise, distract, seize, and cage her. She apparently understood our scheming whispers because she was always aware of the plot and made every attempt to foil it. We had to wear protective gear to avoid all the extra arms and legs with razor claws that she seemed to sprout. She learned to spell too–we couldn’t say “v–e–t” without her going on high alert. At the vet she was difficult to get out of the carrier and, once out, she made every effort to get back in. All was accompanied by loud howling until she was finally home and safe again. The vet said everybody knew when Meeko was visiting the clinic.
Meeko equally loathed being fitted with a flea collar or being dosed with flea medicine. This, too, required secretive plotting and special equipment to attempt it safely. The emergency room number was on speed dial. It sometimes took many tries over several days to accomplish the objective. Achieving the difficult task meant jubilation and great relief. Until next time.
In every case, all was forgiven and forgotten as we settled back into friendly relations, especially after we showered her with extra treats and attention by way of apology.
Meeko used to visit me while I was sitting at a desk. She would climb the back of the chair up into the gully between the chair back and my neck. She would sit there grooming herself and sometimes me on the back of my neck. It felt like being worked over with a small wet wood rasp. She eventually would squirm around a bit to settle into a nice comfortable position to take a snooze. I was reluctant to move at that point.
She also enjoyed joining me outside to take out garbage at 6:00am Tuesday mornings. She would join me on strolls into our woods or fields. She didn’t need me around to enjoy some quality time sitting on the lawn tractor in the garage.
Meeko had many toys over the years and she would play with most of them at least briefly, especially those that moved by themselves or were laced with catnip. But the one toy she stuck with her entire adult life (we don’t recall when she first got it) was a plain round ball covered in multi-colored fabric. She would bat it around and sometimes howl while carrying it in her mouth. We never understood the appeal but it was her constant diversion. We were always amused by the variety of places the ball would appear in the house, especially in the morning. A few times it was floating in her water bowl and had to be dried out before going back into service. Sometimes it would be left on one of our chairs as if she wanted us to know she was thinking of us.
Small cardboard boxes were another big hit. Package deliveries of the right size resulted in small boxes left on the floor for her. She would hop in, taking her little sports car for an imaginary spin–you could imagine her thinking “vroom, vroom!”
She became increasingly social in her later years. Her eyesight and hearing declined–the allure of outdoors ebbed and she insisted on spending more time with us in daily routines: slow petting descents together on the stairs in the morning, head-bumping and rubbing in early evening, and finally some quality petting, grooming, and snoozing every evening in front of the TV.
Eccentric behaviors emerged. She developed a habit of placing one front paw in her water dish while drinking (maybe to hold it down?). When she was done she would shake her paw splattering water all over the wall, floor, and herself. We were constantly toweling off the Meeko water park.
Right up to her last minutes she was devoted and affectionate. It’s brutal not having her around any more but she left us a supply of smiles to last the rest of our days.
Meeko, our beloved cat, celebrated her 21st birthday today. She’s doing remarkably well for her age (aided by several expensive prescriptions). She’s not as spry as she once was: no more feats of leaping or deadly hunts. But she still runs up and down the stairs a couple dozen times a day and spends much of her waking hours howling recommendations on how we can improve our service to her. Her favorite present today was the cork from her celebratory bottle of Prosecco–she merrily batted the cork all over until it rocketed under a sofa.
We estimate she’s now on the 14th of her nine lives. Quite the little role model, that one. Happy Birthday Meeko.
Our Friday evening tradition of enjoying a martini continues unabated through these trying times. We’re studiously observing shelter-in-place, social distancing, and wearing face masks. A martini (or quarantini) interferes with none of that but can take the edge off the pandemic, if only briefly.
Meanwhile, Mother Nature keeps things interesting: this morning we woke to four inches of a fresh frosty coating of snow on everything. As our winter of discontent melts away, we are drawn back to the stress and despair visited on the world by the virus. We’re doing fine for now but are deeply concerned about the plight of so many others, now and for years to come.
Our quarantini toast was to you last evening: Buona salute!