Saturday, August 30 2003
Here's a little update on recent politics among our felines. Mavis, as you may recall, is a 12 year old cat who we are fostering from the Ulster County SPCA. She was seized as evidence in an abuse case from a neglectful animal rescuer, who had kept her locked up in a closet. In our care, which began back in May, Mavis has put on weight and blossomed (as much as a 12 year old cat can be expected to blossom). For the height of the summer she preferred my laboratory as her base of operations, and so we moved her food and litter box there from their former place in the upstairs bathroom. But after I could no longer tolerate the flies and stink associated with her wet food, I replaced it with dry food and then began feeding her wet food on a table in the laundry room downstairs. Before long Mavis had moved her base of operations to the first floor office. Here she can better monitor refrigerator activity. She's come to associate the sound of the refrigerator door with fresh offerings of stinky spamlike Iams. She does still occasionally make use of her laboratory litter box, in which I've been running a series of experiments to find the ideal renewable natural cat litter. The first two tests were with crumbled deciduous leaves. The third was with dried White Pine needles. Today I tried lawn clippings, still damp after a heavy downpour that fell last night.
With Mavis spending so much time down on the first floor, the main reason for Noah and Edna avoiding the upstairs has evaporated. Indeed, they've been spending so much time on the same floor with Mavis that they no longer regard her as the interloper she once seemed to be. They - particularly Noah, have resumed hanging out upstairs, something they hadn't been doing since early May. Noah has even taken to sleeping on the master bed, both in the middle of the day and at night.
Because I pay and am a charter member, I read the article the other day in Salon by the literary highbrow who confessed a love for horror movies and thrash/speed metal to the exclusion of more refined alternatives. Though he claimed to have never heard anything by Hüsker Dü and to have been unimpressed by Guided by Voices, I could nevertheless relate to his predicament. I am also a big fan of speed metal, but (unlike the Salon writer) I've never viewed my love for this music as any sort of liability. It probably helps that I am perfectly comfortable listening to other stuff (including the Carpenters, Songs Ohia, and Neil Diamond), and am well-acquainted with the full spectrum of western pop music. I recognize speed metal for what it is - deeply visceral, primitive, quasi-fascistic, adolescent, but often darkly beautiful music. But it's certainly no more primitive than techno and no more visceral than the blues. Indeed, for a music developed mostly by white men, it's about as visceral as it gets. The Salon article reminded me of some of my old speed metal favorites, music I've neglected to listen to since the beginning of the Charlottesville chapter of my life (late 1994). Just reading the names of those speed metal bands takes me back to the early 1990s, when I used to hang out with my old buddy Josh Furr. We smoked pot, drank endless Milwaukee Bests, cranked up the amplifiers on our musical instruments, and took breaks to watch videotapes of Headbanger's Ball and nasty trucker porn. Josh was something of an expert on all the trends in speed metal during a historical period that later proved to be speed metal's golden age. Because of this, I'm familiar with all the bands from the days before the genre-bending corruption of Nu Metal and Grunge. These include Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Sepultura, Exodus, Slayer, Sepultura, Kreator, King Diamond, Nuclear Assault, and Flotsam and Jetsam. Those motherfuckers knew how to rock my world. I'd totally forgotten about Flotsam and Jetsam and it took the Salon article to remind me. These days, though, one only needs to hear the name of some long-forgotten band in order to commence a walk down memory lane. I immediately did a search in KaZaA Lite for Flotsam and Jetsam and downloaded all the music I could find. Just as I'd remembered, little of Flotsam and Jetsam is worth listening to. But there are a couple of songs that completely blow me away, even to this day. One of these, "Suffer the Masses," has the cheap overproduction you'd expect for a song that a band just knows is going to become their signature. Then there is the creepy novelty tune "E.M.T.E.K." about an unfortunate gentleman who, desperate for money, signs up to serve as a guinea pig for a government biological weapons experiment.
Gretchen and I took the dogs on a walk to the end of the Stick Trail this morning, and this time I carried a bucket in case I found an abundance of fresh new mushrooms responding to the heavy downpour that fell last night. We must have come a little too early, because few mushrooms were in evidence. There were a few inedible Lactarius piperatus, bitter Russulas, and the odd edible Bolete, but nothing worthy of a special mushroom bucket.
As we walked, I told Gretchen about the summers I spent up in the Quebec wilderness with my father and his old university colleague. We'd stayed at a remote farmhouse with a wood stove, an outhouse, but no electricity. By day we'd walk through mosquito-infested forests to nearby Lake Murray to catch sunfish. By the light of a kerosene lattern I'd read old issues of Mad Magazine. As a fifteen year old, I couldn't believe my luck to find them stacked waist-high in the closet of the room where I was sleeping.
As we walked I also drew Gretchen's attention to the elaborate patches of moss at the bases of certain trees. I referred to these as "wonderlands." This term was the most straightforward way to summarize their microscopic complexity. If you stooped down and examined the wonderlands carefully, they appeared every bit as rich as a square mile of rainforest. They featured dozens of different moss species, all spread out in fractals and meta-fractals of intertwined detail. Through these wonderlands a megafauna of arthropods and molluscs roamed, grazed, stalked, and slept.
After we got home, Gretchen ran off to her office and composed a poem containing references to both my summers in Quebec and the wonderlands at the bases of trees in our part of the Catskills. It was called "Gus Mueller: 7A." I was but latest resident in her steadily-growing apartment-themed poetry chapbook.
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