Silence Is the Loudest Meow

What follows is a rewritten version of a piece that first appeared almost a year ago: “Hard Out Here for a Cat.”

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More than once she has given public lectures about the number of chores that occupy a cat’s day. Perhaps you have attended. She tells me that they are very well-attended. (She is seen above with her second-best human, me.)
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Nice Haircut

Years of successfully experiencing haircuts from the hair-bearing side taught me the wrong lesson: that I could do it for/to myself and save money.

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Among the many things that are better left to professionals—piloting a jet, performing almost any surgery, copy editing—cutting hair always should be included. I did not know this until the day I learned it.

Cutting hair looks so easy. The professionals talk to you and even chat amongst themselves while they are doing it, for crying out loud. (Some will even use the word “amongst” while talking: “Your dark hairs are here, amongst the gray ones.”) How do they do that? If you interrupt me while I am merrily typing away, I will pretty much stop typing and begin to glare at you until you decide to ask someone else whatever it is you came to ask me. And how do you know where I live anyway?

One of my barbers back in the early 2000s was a World War II Navy vet who loved to tell stories from his war years while he was wielding his scissors around my scalp. (He was of the old school: No clippers for his customers. “Why give them a cut that they can give themselves?” he woukd ask-declare. Little did he know how well I knew that lesson. See below.)
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Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of Wherever I Left My Glasses

One recent morning, I became a grown-up: I attempted to remove glasses from my face that were already in my fist.

For those of you who are lifelong glasses-wearers (it is almost 40 years for me), you know that there are several distinct methods of removing eyeglasses—and, even better, there are several non-verbal messages that can be communicated in the manner of their removal.

Off the top of my head, which is not where I keep my glasses, there is “Two-handed and Thoughtful,” “One-handed and from the Right and Peeved” (I usually accidentally fling my glasses to the floor or across my desk with that one), and “One-handed and from the Left and Trying to (Honestly) Get to the Heart of Things.” There are some others. Putting them on in front of people usually communicates this: “Enough Fun, Everyone. It’s Time to Get Back to Work.”

It can be like semaphore, but not at all and with glasses.
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Crisis Mismanagement

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
—T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

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“Take my advice—I’m not using it.” I can tell you to keep calm. At my worst, I might insist that you keep calm. But as someone who can introduce stress into the least stressful, sweetly innocuous, and even some of the more pleasant experiences in life, when I am confronted with the parts of life that others find truly stressful, I hunker down and find the effort deep inside myself to make them yet more stressful.

In one of my lesser achievements in the field of stress management, I gave myself a black eye while tying my shoes. These were boots with leather laces (I am not a cowboy) and such laces can take a little effort to yank into position. While securing my “half-knot” on my right shoe, the length of lace in my left hand broke and I clocked myself in the right eye. At the time, I was 34 years old, not 11.
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I’m on Fire

Cooking is not something that I—what’s the word?—ah, yes: “Do.”

One does not live to be 47 without finding some food here and there, so I have eaten a thing or two most of the days I have spent here, and I must have even prepared a meal or a few in order to have made it this far. And I was not left to forage in the woods behind our house when I was growing up; my mom is an excellent and health-conscious cook. Thanks to her early adoption of a low- and sometimes no-salt kitchen, my heart will probably continue beating long after the rest of me has permanently allowed all my subscriptions to lapse.

This is not to say that I do not remember eating or cooking; oh, I do. My cooking is not memorable, though, in either direction: tasty treat or sublime sludge. I almost envy the good writers who are bad cooks (not as much as I envy the non-writers who are good cooks), because at least something interesting comes from their culinary assaults on taste and decency.
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My Little Town

One of the unique things that is somehow common to many people (we are all alike in our uniqueness) is a stated belief that our hometown is no place special. We are taught to be humble, so anyplace that our humble selves hail from must be thought of as not all that special, either.

This often masks a fierce inner secret belief that one’s hometown is in fact the best place to be from and (insert name of a higher power one believes in here), please help those who chose to be born somewhere else, especially those unlucky ones born in the nearest next neighboring town. Those people are the unluckiest of all, perhaps because they were born so near to our town’s obvious greatness but they were not, which renders all the more dramatic their failure at their life’s first and easiest task: pick the right place to be born.
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Awesome. Just Awesome.

One can not, or ought not, nickname oneself. This is not a hard-and-fast social rule, but it is similar to the unspoken rule about not declaring oneself humble. The person who volunteers that he or she is humble often is not at all humble. An exception comes when the humble person is speaking self-deprecatingly.

Every once in a while, I have desired a cool nickname, a moniker that precedes me wherever I roam. “Lefty” is a great nickname—Steve Carlton and Phil Mickelson both carry that name with distinction, but I am right-handed. No one goes by the name “Righty.” “Write-y”? No. No one needs a nickname that is a pun, a rhyme no less, and would always need a follow-up explanation: “‘Cause he calls himself a writer, get it?”

“No. No, I don’t.”
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