Another Goodbye

Originally posted November 5, 2007

Kind of a tough weekend here on the East Side.

Well, we knew it was coming, but it happened faster that we expected. Simmons, the thirteen-year-old cat that I brought with me when the Texas Gal and I merged households, is gone.

He’d been losing weight and walking a bit gingerly for a while, so we’d taken him to our regular veterinarian a week ago, where blood tests showed an over-active thyroid. That explained his incessant appetite and the weight loss. We started him on some medication and kept a close eye on him. One of the things the vet told us was that thyroid conditions often mask kidney problems in cats.

But Simmons – named when I got him in 1994 for my all-time favorite baseball player, Al Simmons – seemed fine, at least until Saturday afternoon. I noticed then that he was lying a little awkwardly under my computer desk, a new place for him. I petted him and he purred, and I thought, well, cats change their places. That evening, though, he didn’t come right away to the living room when the Texas Gal and I sat there, and when he did come into the room, he lay under one of the tables, again looking as if he were a little uncomfortable.

I went to pull him out from under the table, and as I held him under his front legs and pulled, he yowled. Stunned, we carefully lifted him and put him on the couch, and while I was getting ready for a trip to the emergency veterinarian’s office, the Texas Gal tried to lift him from the couch. And he yowled again. When we got to the vet’s office, though, he acted like the laid-back cat he’d been for thirteen years. No screams, no panting, just a little nervous twitching and a lot of purring.

Stumped, we brought him back home. And Sunday morning, the Texas Gal woke me, saying she couldn’t find him. We searched and finally located him behind the couch. After we got him out, we watched him walk gingerly across the floor. The Texas Gal once worked for a vet in Texas, and she said that Simmons’ gait was similar to that of cats she’d seen with kidney problems. Whether it was that or another difficulty, it was clear that Simmons was no longer comfortable. So we took deep breaths and took him back to the emergency vet.

And we held Simmons as the vet tended to him and the light went out of his big brown eyes.

It’s been not just a tough weekend but a tough few months, as regular readers here will recall. Since the beginning of July, we’ve lost two rats and a cat, a sequence that other animal lovers will recognize as almost overwhelming. I think a kind of numbness sets in after a while, something that I hope can fade now. We’ve still got other furry friends, including seventeen-week-old Oscar, a kitten who was one of my birthday gifts in September. And we know that saying goodbye is part of the bargain you make when you bring pets into your lives.

But it is hard. When we got home yesterday afternoon, we settled into our Sunday routines as well as we could, the Texas Gal working on a quilt and me watching the Vikings. But there was a cat-shaped hole in our home. The Texas Gal said later that when she thought of Simmy during the day, she kept thinking about “Cat’s In The Cradle,” Harry Chapin’s 1974 hit. “I know the song doesn’t really fit,” she said, “but that’s what comes to mind.”

Harry Chapin – Cat’s In The Cradle (1974)

Before all that happened, my plan was to rip one of my records for today. I decided this morning to stick with that plan and offer something new (actually something old that’s not been available). After a few false starts, I settled on a 1974 release from Redbone, an album titled Beaded Dreams Through Turquoise Eyes.

Redbone was formed and led by Native American brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas, who, before they formed the group, were the writers of the song “Nicky Hoeky.” Redbone is best known for its two Top 40 hits: “The Witch Queen of New Orleans” reached No. 21 in 1972, and “Come And Get Your Love” reached No. 5 in 1974. Both of those hits had a swampy feel to them, as did much of the music on Redbone’s albums, especially Potlatch and Redbone, both from 1970.

“Witch Queen” came from the 1972 album Message from a Drum and “Come And Get Your Love” came from 1974’s Wovoka, and those two albums have much the same sound. (All four of those albums are worth seeking out, though it appears that Message From A Drum is not available on CD. The other three of those albums have at least been released on CD and seem to be available through standard online sources. All-Music Guide lists two other 1970s albums by Redbone: Already Here from 1972 and Cycles from 1978; I know nothing about either of them except that neither of them is listed as having been released on CD.)

That swampy and slightly spooky feel holds true for much of Beaded Dreams Through Turquoise Eyes, especially the tracks “One More Time,” “Cookin’ With D’Redbone” and the oddly titled “Moon When Four Eclipse.” There are a few tracks – “Suzi Girl,” “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” and the title track most notably – that seem to me like missteps, with swirling strings and unimaginative beats echoing the proto-disco hits that were becoming more and more prevalent in 1974.

One note that may be of interest: The album’s credits list Bonnie Bramlett, Merry Clayton and Clydie King as background singers. Though their contributions seem to be spread throughout the album, they are most prominent on the track “Blood Sweat and Tears.” I’m not sure whose voice it is swooping and soaring in the background there (Clayton would be my guess), but it’s one of the record’s most thrilling moments.

(This is a rip from vinyl, so there are a few pops here and there.)

Track listing:
One More Time
Suzi Girl
Only You and Rock and Roll
Blood Sweat and Tears
Cookin’ With D’Redbone
(Beaded Dreams Through) Turquoise Eyes
Beautiful Illusion
Interstate Highway 101
I’ll Never Stop Loving You
Moon When Four Eclipses

Redbone – Beaded Dreams Through Turquoise Eyes [1974]

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