"She's white now," my mother said. 

I had just shown her this picture.


"Do you recognize her?" I'd asked. 

"Yes, it's Cadenza."  A C&C 39.  She and my father had had her built and launched in 1975. In the 70s and 80s, they sailed her thousands of miles around Maine and from Newfoundland to Bermuda and the Bahamas.

"She's always been white," I said.

"Didn't she used to be black?"

As far as I know my parents never owned a black boat.  My father used to quote L. Francis Herreshoff as having said, "there are only two colors to paint a boat - white and black - and only a damn fool would paint his boat black."

"No, she was never black," I said.

August 29, 2005 in C is for..., Personal | Permalink | Comments (0)

C is for Cooper

My wheels:


Fresh off the boat back in October 2002.  What a great ride she has been!

April 25, 2005 in C is for... | Permalink | Comments (0)

C is for Cat

Let me be perfectly clear - I am not a cat person.  I wouldn't say I hate cats, but I am not particularly fond of them.  If cats can sense at all this distaste of mine, they have a funny way of showing it; usually they will pick my lap out of a group of stranger's laps to leap, purring, upon.  Cat people have suggested to me that this shows the cat's wonderful sense of irony.  To me it's another example either of their stupidity, their disdain for humans, or both. 

People who love cats seem to me to have a not too subtle masochistic streak or inferiority complex.  They love to be disdained and disobeyed.  Dog people prefer to be revered, even worshiped by our, I mean their, pets.  Sure, one might make the argument that dog people have a little bit of a God complex, but , hey, don't the enlightened tell us that God is within each of us.  Cats certainly believe so.

There were no pets to speak of in the home of my youth, neither cats nor dogs.  My first experience living with cats probably had an influence on my subsequent regard for the creatures.  The summer after my senior year in college, I arranged to live in a house with seven women.  If images of a three month idyll of sexual dalliances occurred to you when you read that last sentence, let me tell you we were both wrong.  My role in this harem was closer to eunuch than sultan.  I was relegated to the worst room in the place, a glorified broom closet right next to the only bathroom in the house, without a real bed - just a mattress on the floor.  I had thought my college roommates were slobs, but these women put them to shame.  They did have the miraculous ability to emerge from bomb craters they inhabited perfectly put together, but when it came to any communal cleaning chore, it was pretty much up to me.

Our Cambridge neighborhood

Fortunately, I didn't really have time to feel regret for my lack of success with these women.  It was the summer of '69, and I was chiefly concerned about the Draft.  My student deferment had expired, and I had no intention of getting drafted or serving in the military in any capacity, but I hadn't the courage of my convictions to run away to Canada, and I wasn't sure that fear of death was an adequate foundation for conscientious objector status.

I was pinning my hopes for a deferment on Digital Equipment Corporation which had tentatively offered me a job and promised a deferment as part of the deal.  To keep them happy, I was spending the summer programming interrupt routines for the time-share operating system for a new PDP 9t that was being installed in a laboratory on the 13th floor of the psychology department building. (Those were the days when the customer supplied all the programs including the operating system, which in this case wasn't surprising, because they were inventing the PDP 9t as they went along.)  I was not really doing much of anything, but, wanting to impress the Digital reps, I had to spend most of my waking hours in my office, polishing little snippets of machine code.

Meanwhile, one of my roommates decided to acquire a couple of cute little kittens to entertain herself when she wasn't hanging with her (to hear him tell it) mobbed-up boyfriend.   She was not however of the mood or temperament to exercise any responsibility for these animals.  She did set up a litter box for them, hoping that somehow or other they would intuit its purpose.  Perhaps they did use it for a while, but cleaning it was not on their owner's agenda.  The kittens quickly decided that they wanted no part of no stinkin' litter box and started searching for other corners of the house to do their business. 

The housemates sophisticated response to this behavior was aversion therapy - when a kitten makes a 'mistake', shove its face in it and swat it (the cat, not the mistake) with a newspaper.  The kittens quickly figured that the best way to avoid this unpleasantness was to do their business in a place no human could get to.  The perfect spot was underneath the old claw-footed bathtub that graced our bathroom.  The odor was mild at first, but increased daily.  Housemates recriminated at volume, but no cleanup ensued.

In the end, the cats sickened of the bathtub latrine before the humans.  I discovered this by coming home from a late night pizza and programming session, tiptoeing to my darkened closet, and exhaustedly flopping onto my mattress - right into a steaming pile of cat shit.  Needless to say, I was not happy.  I knew that I had only one course of action, which I plotted while washing my clothes, my bedding and then myself in the bathtub - breathing the while through my mouth. 

The next morning when my housemates had left for their day jobs, I snatched the kittens, installed them in a paper grocery bag, and split.  At the time I had a metallic green Corvair coupe, which was quite reliable except when driving between 45 and 50 miles per hour when it would shimmy violently, sort of like passing through the sound barrier.  In retrospect, i was probably in as much danger driving this machine as I ever was from the Vietnam war, but that morning I cranked the AM radio in the dashboard and whistled happily as I headed for the country. 

I had heard stories of dogs traveling thousands of miles back to their homes, but I didn't really believe them, and i figured thirty miles would be more than enough to keep those kittens from finding there way home, if they were as stupid as I thought.  If they were any smarter, they would head in the opposite direction.

In those days, 50 miles out of Cambridge could be pretty rural.  I found a somewhat dilapidated but still working farm with a couple of big barns and no dogs in evidence.  I parked a ways down the road, hopped a fence, and placed the paper sack under an apple tree in sight of the barn.   The kittens had it open by the time I got to the other side of the fence, but they weren't looking my way and I never looked back as I crossed the sound barrier on that country road.

It took a couple of days for it to sink in to the kittens owner that they were really gone.  She tearfully accused each of the roommates of leaving the door open and allowing them to escape, but kidnapping never occurred to her, and she got over the loss remarkably quickly, probably secretly overjoyed to be relieved of a responsibility she wasn't up to. 

We used a lot of air freshener in the bathroom and went our separate ways at the end of August.  Nowadays, I have friends who are cat owners, even fanatical Friends of Feral Felines, and, as far as they know, I think no less of them.  I'm not sure, though, that I wouldn't have been among the majority in Wisconsin last week who, according to the Economist, voted that feral cats were fair game for hunters.

All in all my view of cats has not changed a whole lot since that idyllic summer of my youth.  I'll keep my distance if they'll keep theirs.

April 17, 2005 in C is for..., Personal | Permalink | Comments (0)