Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

Saturday Single No. 111

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 24, 2009

So I sat here in the study, fresh coffee at hand, digging through a few 45s and a batch of newly ripped mp3s, looking for something compelling for a Saturday morning.

In the stack of 45s in good shape that I pulled aside some years ago – leaving others in the mystery box, the source these days of my Grab Bag records – I found a 1967 Young Rascals single, “A Girl Like You,” and I dropped it on the turntable. It played well enough to rip an mp3, as did a 1967 Sammy Davis, Jr., spoken-word record. I spent fifteen minutes recording those and appending tags to them. The Young Rascals single may show up here in the future; it’s a nice tune. The Sammy Davis single – fascinatingly unique – will certainly show up in this space, but only after I’ve had the chance to do some research. And I wasn’t in the mood to do research today.

So I ate a whole-grain toaster pastry – how about that for a product that’s healthy for you and likely not so healthy at the same time? – and dithered. I pulled a Jim Horn album – 1972’s Through The Eyes Of A Horn – from a box and thought about posting his version of “Going Up The Country” along with a meditation of some sort about finding records by folks who spend most of their time as studio musicians. I decided that if I were going to do that, I’d share the entire album. So look for that in the future.

And then, as the Texas Gal rose and got herself ready for the day – the most exciting portion of our day is likely to be a trip to a major discount store to purchase furnace filters – I had company here in the study. Our newest cat – and I may not have mentioned him here previously – jumped into my lap and demanded attention. He’s an orange tabby with a white muzzle, and his name is Cubbie Cooper. (The Texas Gal said it just sounded right, and she’s correct.) The Coop, as he’s also known, settled himself on my lap, purring loudly.

A few moments later, the Texas Gal came in to say good morning. “You’ve been Cooperized, I see,” she said.

I nodded. “And it’s hard to concentrate” I said.

“He does have a loud purr.”

She asked what I was going to post this morning, and I said, “I have absolutely no idea.”

She thought for a moment. “How about . . . ‘Amanda’?”

By Boston?

“Yeah, that’s the one. When it came out, I wished my name were Amanda. I’ve always liked it.”

So with that, here – courtesy of the Texas Gal – is today’s Saturday Single.

“Amanda” by Boston, MCA 52756 [1986]

Advertisements

Farewell To Seven-Toed Henri

August 24, 2011

Originally posted October 17, 2008

I was going to write about the autumn of 1971 today, a time that was unexceptional for the most part. It did mark my first quarter of college, and I guess that made it a time of major adjustments. But I’ll write about that some other day.

We lost another cat yesterday.

This summer, shortly after we had to let go of the Texas Gal’s beloved Smudge, one of the Texas Gal’s co-workers said a kitten had found its way to her mother’s place. The kitten ended up with the Texas Gal’s co-worker, who then learned that her husband and son were allergic to cats. For two days, the kitten was alone in their basement while they figured out what to do, and there was talk of letting it loose in a field to fend for itself.

Given that we were in the middle of the difficult (and expensive) process of moving, I was reluctant to bring in a kitten, but I’ll never let a little one be let loose in a field; I can’t imagine anything more terrifying – or more practically lethal – for a small animal. So one evening, the Texas Gal brought home our new little guy, black with some white trim . . . and seven toes on each front foot.

I’m not sure where the name came from, but after some hesitation, the Texas Gal named him Henri Matisse, after the artist. But we pronounced his name “Henry” instead of the French “Ehn-ree.” And we took him to Dr. Tess for his standard kitten care. He had worms, which we expected, and we treated him for that. A few months later, not long after we moved, we had him neutered and had his front claws removed.

Even after treatment for worms, Henri’s digestive problems continued. When we organized the empty boxes we’d thrown off to the side of the basement during the move, we discovered that he hadn’t been using his cat box regularly. We thought his continued digestive problems might be the reason, so we changed his diet, kept an eye on his trips to the basement and gave him a supplement for two weeks.

Nothing really helped his digestion, and once the two-week regimen of the supplement was over, he began to lose weight and he didn’t always seem comfortable. And one evening this week, we discovered that his cat box behavior in the basement hadn’t changed. In some ways, it’s no big deal. We’ve cleaned up worse messes over the years. But the vet said yesterday morning that it was unlikely Henri’s behavior would change, even if we could correct the problem with his digestion. And we knew we couldn’t continue.

Henri went peacefully. And we have another cat-shaped hole in the house. The Texas Gal and I both spent a little bit more time than usual last evening playing with Oscar and talking to Clarence, our two remaining catboys. That helped, at least a little.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1971, Vol. 4
“Tell Me Why” by Matthews’ Southern Comfort, Decca 32874 (No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 as of October 16, 1971)

“Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’” by Peter Nero, Columbia 45399 (No. 91)

“Respect Yourself” by the Staple Singers, Stax 0104 (No. 82)

“It’s a Cryin’ Shame” by Gayle McCormick, Dunhill 4288 (No. 60)

“Two Divided By Love” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill 4289 (No. 55)

“Women’s Love Rights” by Laura Lee, Hot Wax 7105 (No. 37)

“You’ve Got To Crawl (Before You Walk)” by 8th Day, Invictus 9098 (No. 36)

“One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse, Evolution 1048 (No. 32)

“Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” by Kris Kristofferson, Monument 8525 (No. 27)

“Stick-Up” by Honey Cone, Hot Wax 7106 (No. 19)

“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement, Decca 32818 (No. 15)

“So Far Away” by Carole King, Ode 66019 (No. 14)

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth, Gordy 7108 (No. 12)

A few notes:

The Matthews’ Southern Comfort track is a cover of the Neil Young tune from After the Goldrush album, which came out in 1970. Southern Comfort was headed by Ian Matthews, who had been a founding member of Britain’s Fairport Convention. Matthews’ career is a fascinating series of stops, starts and sudden left turns, but his music has always been listenable and sometimes inspired.

One evening during the summer of 1971, after a day of unpacking file cabinets in the new Education Building at St. Cloud State, I wandered off to the theater and took in The Summer of ’42. The movie touched me, with its tale of a young man’s beginning to grow up, of his crush on the older woman played by the luminescent Jennifer O’Neill (looking impossibly young from where I sit now) and of the tragedy and confusion of wartime. I was also blown away by Michel Legrand’s Academy Award-winning score, which was sweet and sad and over-the-top – all of the things that we are at sixteen. I never looked for the soundtrack LP; I’m not sure why. But when Peter Nero had a hit with the main theme later in the year (the single went to No. 22), I was pleased to hear the song coming out of my radio.

Gayle McCormick was the lead singer for Smith, the group that had a No. 5 hit in the autumn of 1969 with a cover of “Baby It’s You.” “It’s A Cryin’ Shame” was a pretty good single from her first solo album – she recorded two others in the early 1970s, and after that, I lose track of her – but it didn’t do very well. Nor did her follow-ups. She never cracked the Top 40 as a solo artist.

This selection includes three more good singles (several showed up in previous Baker’s Dozen selections) from Hot Wax and Invictus, the labels launched by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland after they left Motown. The singles weren’t as successful on the pop chart as they were good. “Women’s Love Rights” peaked at No. 36, and “You’ve Got To Crawl” topped out at No. 28, but the Honey Cone single nearly got into the Top Ten, stalling at No. 11. (It spent two weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart.)

This version of Lighthouse’s “One Fine Morning” originally linked with this post was from the album. Since then, I was able to find a video with the fairly rare single edit. Either way, once I saw the title in the Hot 100 for this week in 1971, I had to post the song, even in the wrong version. It’s just too good to ignore.

The Undisputed Truth’s “Smiling Faces Sometimes” was a pretty grim and tough song, talking about the perfidy surrounding all of us, wherever we go. Some folks saw it as a political allegory, and the theme of betrayal makes that at least a little bit plausible, given the realities of 1971. Whatever the message, the record had a great groove.

Edited and rewritten slightly on August 6, 2013.

Saturday Singles Nos. 83 & 84

July 25, 2011

Originally posted August 2, 2008

This will be brief, as other obligations sing for my attention this morning.

The Texas Gal and I have only four weeks to get everything ready for the move, and although we have done a great deal of packing, much remains to be done. So I will spend a good portion of the day wrestling LPs into boxes. A sore back is one of the risks there, but the greater risk is that I stop every five minutes to examine a record jacket, murmuring, “I forgot I had this one. I need to see what shape it’s in before I pack it.” I will have to be strong, tell myself that the record – Hoppkorv by Hot Tuna, maybe, or perhaps Alvin Lee’s In Flight – will emerge from the box at the other end of the move and that will be soon enough.

I also will be brief today as our newest catboy, Henri Matisse, has an appointment with Dr. Tess this morning for his second round of shots. We got Henri from one of the Texas Gal’s co-workers, who said he just showed up at her mother’s house one day, and the little guy does have some of the traits that strays pick up. But he’s a cute and affectionate kitten, and in only a few weeks has become part of the family (despite some grumbling from Clarence, eldest of the cats).

So, to music: Having spent Thursday evening at St. Cloud’s Paramount Theatre listening to the Wailin’ Jennys for the second time in a little more than a year, it was pretty easy to decide what to share this morning. The Jennys – soprano Ruth Moody, mezzo Nicky Mehta and alto Heather Masse – gave a jaw-dropping performance again. Much of the set-list was the same as last year’s show, with a few new songs dropped in. Even the familiar material was thrilling, though, given the vocal and instrumental musicianship of the three women (and of Jeremy Penner, their male violinist, whom they affectionately call Wailin’ Jeremy).

So for a summer Saturday morning, here are the Wailin’ Jennys with their version of Neil Young’s “Old Man,” from their 2004 CD, 40 Days, and with Mehta’s “Avila,” from the 2006 CD Firecracker.

Wailin’ Jennys – “Old Man” [2004]

Wailin’ Jennys – “Avila” [2006]

Goodbye To Smudge

July 18, 2011

Originally posted June 25, 2008

When one owns pets, saying goodbye is part of the package. But it never gets easier.

This morning it was Smudge, the cat that the Texas Gal had bottle-raised, the little white lady who had been the Texas Gal’s baby since she was less than a day old.

It was the summer of 1998, and the Texas Gal was still in Texas, working as a buyer for a manufacturing firm in Dallas. One of the warehouse guys came to her office, carrying a small something. He said he’d seen it on the floor as he was driving a forklift. He thought it was a mouse, and he stopped to pick it up intact rather than have to clean it up later. But it was a kitten, no more than three inches long, so he brought it to the Texas Gal’s office, knowing she was a cat person.

The little thing was white with a gray patch on her forehead, so her name was Smudge. The mama cat might have dropped her when she was startled while moving her litter, or maybe Smudge got left behind as a runt. But raised on bottled milk and love, she survived. She never got very big – maybe eight pounds at the most. But she was the Texas Gal’s kitty for just about ten years.

And Smudge was no one else’s cat. She and I shared the same quarters for seven years, and, at best, she tolerated me. I could pet her and she’d put up with it for a moment or two, then squirm away or – if she could not get away – slap my hand five or six times with a tiny lightning-fast front paw. Still, the Texas Gal told me, no one else had ever been able to touch Smudge without her screaming and biting. So I did pretty well.

She was skittish, Smudge was, possibly because of her origins. Loud noises and strangers worried her. And it didn’t help that one of the catboys, Clarence, liked to chase her. She spent a lot of time in dark corners. And she spent a lot of time curled up on the Texas Gal’s lap, the one place in the world she felt safe.

About ten days ago, on a Saturday night, the Texas Gal noticed that something was wrong. We took Smudge to the emergency vet, who corrected the immediate problem with a minor procedure but told us that the root cause was unchanged. The problem was likely to be chronic. Last evening, we concluded, reluctantly, that the vet was right, and Mudgie was only going to be less and less comfortable as time went on. So this morning, we took her to see Dr. Tess, and we said goodbye.

So here’s a Baker’s Dozen for the Texas Gal’s baby.

A Baker’s Dozen of Babys
“Baby Don’t Do Me Wrong” by John Lee Hooker from I Feel Good, 1971

“Baby Please Don’t Go” by Muddy Waters from Muddy Waters at Newport, 1960

“Baby Ruth” by Delbert McClinton from The Jealous Kind, 1980

“You, Baby” by the Ronettes from Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes, 1964

“Baby, I Love You” by Aretha Franklin, Atlantic single 2427, 1967

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” by John Hammond from Tangled Up In Blues, 1999

“Rock A Bye Baby Blues” by Ray Thomas from From Mighty Oaks, 1975

“Baby Let’s Wait” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie single 3461, 1969

“Our Baby’s Gone” by Herb Pederson from Southwest, 1976

“Baby It’s You” by the Shirelles, Scepter single 1227, 1962

“My Baby Loves Lovin’” by White Plains, Deram single 85058, 1970

“Ruby Baby” by Donald Fagen from The Nightfly, 1982

“Me and Baby Jane” by Leon Russell from Carney, 1972

A few notes:

This set is a little bluesier than most of them get, what with John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and John Hammond. Delbert McClinton shades that way sometimes too.

It’s funny that the one track with the word “blues” in its title is one of the more odd blues that one can find. Ray Thomas, a member of the Moody Blues, released From Mighty Oaks during the years when the Moodies were inactive. Like most solo outings from the members of the group, the album sounds very much like the Moody Blues. And even though Thomas’ voice slides into blue tones now and then during “Rock A Bye Baby Blues,” when you consider the non-blues chord progression, his voice and the airy production, well, if it’s a blues, it’s a unique one.

“Baby Let’s Wait” is a dirge-like ballad that reached the lower levels of the Top 40 – No. 38 – in 1969. The Royal Guardsmen are better known for reaching No. 2 as 1966 turned into 1967 with “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” and for that record’s follow-up, “The Return of the Red Baron,” which went to No. 15 in the spring of 1967.

I wrote some time back about Smith’s version of “Baby It’s You,” which went to No. 5 in 1969. The original by the Shirelles went to No. 8 in early 1962. Smith might have had the better version, but the Shirelles had the better career: Smith had just the one Top 40 hit, while the Shirelles had twelve of them, including two No. 1 hits: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Soldier Boy.”

Another Goodbye

May 18, 2011

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]

A Place With Bread & Cheese & Cookies

May 11, 2011

Originally posted October 2, 2007

Well, the rat cage is empty this morning.

Sometime today, I’ll give it a good cleaning and put it out on the balcony, where it can stay until we donate it to the local Humane Society. We won’t be using it again.

We took Wilbur to the vet yesterday and sent him home to wherever it is pets go when they are done here. Unlike in July, when Wilbur’s pal Darwin left us, this departure wasn’t a surprise. We’d scheduled our visit to the vet about ten days ago.

Wilbur – whom we’d had since Thanksgiving 2005 – didn’t do all that well after Darwin died. He missed his pal. We tried to pay more attention to him, but we’re not sure we succeeded. Rats are incredibly social animals. They bond with their cagemates – and with their people – more than I would have thought possible. With Darwin gone, I’m afraid Wilbur needed more attention than he got from us in his last three months.

And in the last month, his health had started to fail. Rats are prone to tumors, and Wilbur had a small one on his back for more than a year. References we consulted basically told us to keep an eye on it and his behavior, so we did, especially after we lost Darwin. And for the last month, we could see that Wilby wasn’t always comfortable even though he never lost his appetite for bread and cheese and cookies. Some days, he’d huddle up and not engage with us much. Other days, however, he’d perk up at the sound of our voices and want to be held in our laps, where he’d lie down and close his eyes with his jaws grinding in contentment.

As we told our vet in mid-September, a week or so before we set the appointment, Wilbur probably was having two good days to one bad day. For the last week, well, it was maybe one-to-one. It was time.

As I wrote when Darwin died, I had never figured that rats would be good pets. But the little fellows drew me in and captured me. Their antics were funny, they had sweet dispositions and they were far more engaged with us than I could ever have imagined. Wilbur was the clown, always playing, always in motion when we brought them out onto the couch for company. At least he was until the last few months, when he preferred to snuggle up with either one of us and be quiet.

Because we were able to plan for Wilbur’s exit, there isn’t the shock today that there was in July when Darwin died. But there is grief. That’s eased by the vision of Wilbur being reunited with his pals Darwin and Orville in some distant place, a place where there’s always lots of bread and cheese and cookies.

I’m not trying to make this bigger than it is. Wilbur was a rat – a funny, friendly rat – and no more than that. There are millions in the world with griefs greater than ours this morning. But our grief is enough for us today. Those who share their lives with pets will understand while those who don’t might not.

It was difficult to find an appropriate song for today’s cover version. Everything I considered seemed either too cutesy or too grand. So I decided to go with grandness and a track from the star-studded Concert For George. After all, Wilbur was a pretty grand rat.


Paul McCartney – “All Things Must Pass” [2002]

A Furry Hole In Our Hearts

April 24, 2011

Originally posted July 2, 2007

We’re animal lovers, the Texas Gal and I.

We’ve got three cats (or they have us, more likely), and they are only the most recent: We were each owned by numerous felines in the years that predated our forming a household in 2001. We’re on our third hamster. And for Christmas 2005, the Texas Gal decided she wanted a pair of rats.

So since Thanksgiving that year – Christmas came early, at least on the rodent front – we’ve had two rats. First we had Wilbur and Orville (the Rat Brothers), and then Wilbur and Darwin, after Orville apparently had a stroke.

And tonight, we have Wilbur.

We’re not sure what happened with Darwin today. When I went to give the rats their pellets around one o’clock this afternoon, he didn’t want to eat. He lay there in the upper level of their cage, breathing rapidly, awake but not moving. I called the Texas Gal at work, and we took him to our new veterinarian’s office. Darwin stirred a little bit on the drive over but not anywhere near as much as a healthy, inquisitive rat should.

As we drove over, the Texas Gal told me she’d thought he’d been breathing a bit rapidly the night before, but she’d watched him for a bit and hadn’t noticed anything else.

By the time we got to the vet’s, Darwin wasn’t moving much at all. When the vet palpated his stomach, he squirmed, but that was it. The vet said Darwin’s lymph nodes were enlarged, and his lungs sounded wrong, too. He was, said the vet, a very sick rat. So there wasn’t much question about what we had to do.

I held him while the vet gave him a shot, and we both petted and cuddled him as he left us.

I have to admit that when the Texas Gal said that she wanted rats for pets, I was skeptical. I love animals, but I didn’t see myself becoming attached to the rats. I was in tears, though, as we said goodbye, as I am as I write this.

As I grieved this afternoon, I wandered through my music, trying to think of a song that would be an appropriate memorial for Darwin. I think I found it.