Archive for December, 2008

hungry hungry raindrops

raindrops-car-windowDriving up to Seattle to see a good friend, I looked out the passenger side window and remembered how big raindrops eat other raindrops. This was a game I played when on long car trips as a kid. (Full disclosure: a long car trip was anything more than twenty minutes, but to get the raindrop effect you really had to be on the freeway.) I’d look for the raindrop on the window being blown along by the wind. It would seem to reach out to grab, or eat, its smaller cousins. I would watch to see how large that raindrop got before either being blown off the window or split into smaller drops.

Raindrop eating raindrop was perhaps not the best game – I doubt it will challenge chess or baseball – but it always kept my attention.


I have a wonderful Timbuk2 messenger bag. It works very well when I’m riding my bike, because it has this second strap. You clip the strap across your torso to prevent the bag from shifting forward when you’re riding.

When I’m not on my bike, that extra strap hangs loose. I try to stuff it in the bag, but sometimes it falls out anyway and I can feel it swinging behind me when I walk.

At first this annoyed me, but I now think of it as my tail. Like most people, I’m insanely jealous of animals with tails. Now, at least when I have my bag, I get to see how the other half lives. Let me tell you, it’s pretty sweet.josh-has-a-tail

I am one step closer to being like Mr. Cat, as shown above.

I met Amazing Larry

amazing-larry   A few weeks before I moved to Portland, I had the pleasure of meeting an orange cat named Amazing Larry. Although our time together was brief, I will always remember his charm, selflessness, and optimism in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I miss Amazing Larry – he was a good cat and I was glad to meet him.

It was March in Boulder, so the weather was still quite cold. It had snowed Saturday and Sunday and it was in the 20s outside. I saw, Sunday night, a note in our apartment building left by a neighbor. The note said that they had found a cat and they let the cat stay in their apartment for the night.

Monday morning, I was on the way to the gym when I noticed a cat in the stairwell. Odd, since there aren’t usually animals hanging around in the stairwell – it’s closed off both to the outside and to each floor of the building.

I got back home an hour or so later and the cat was still there. He trotted right up to me when I entered with my bike; usually cats are scared of large metal objects, but this one was unafraid. I set my bike down and took a look: he was orange with white speckles. He looked like an outdoor cat: short hair, muscular, friendly with strangers like me. He followed me up and I had to close the door quickly so he wouldn’t come in my apartment.

After I took a shower I came back out and he was still in the stairwell. I decided that I needed to do something. I fed him. I took the food outside, thinking he’d eat it then go on his way. Not so. He meowed at the door to the apartment building. He had a very loud meow, and it was cold outside, so I felt like I couldn’t just leave him out there. I also didn’t want to adopt a cat who was likely just too cold to walk back to his home. The best thing to do was take him to the humane society (there’s a good no-kill shelter where we got our cat).

I walked out to the car and he followed me. I put him in the car and started it up – I figured I’d turn on the heat so he’d be happy while I brushed the snow off the windows. I finished, then noticed he had peed on my seat. I turned off the car, picked up the cat, and took him back to the apartment to get some cleaner and paper towels.amazing-larry-hissing-match

Our cat Sambora was awake. I opened the door, the orange cat trotted inside, and Sambora was on the scene. I’m not going to place blame on who started it, because I don’t honestly know, but what followed for several breathless moments was a colossal hissing match. Both cats, taken aback, I suspect, at the unexpected presence of another cat , hissed at each other. Before violence ensued, I hastily ushered the orange cat outside the apartment, shut the door, and ran to get the cleaner. To his credit, he waited for me outside my door. To Sambora’s credit, she immediately forgot the incident ever happened. On my way back, I didn’t have to carry the orange cat; he followed me downstairs and into the car.

The cat was a great passenger. He looked out the windows, explored the backseat, and sat next to me for a while in the passenger seat. Whenever we stopped at a light, people would wave to him.amazing-larry-good-passenger

When we got to the humane society, I picked him up so he wouldn’t run away, but he didn’t want me to carry him. I set him down and he led the way to the door. I opened the door for him and he trotted inside and acted like maybe he’d been there before.

The woman at the counter looked first at the cat who so matter-of-factly walked in the door. Her eyes then made contact with mine and she seemed a little relieved that the cat had not come in on his own.

She checked him out and found that he had a microchip. His name was Amazing Larry, and they also had an address where he lived. The woman called his owner but she wasn’t at home, so I left Larry there to wait for his people to come pick him up. She asked if I wanted to be on the adoption list in case the owner did not turn up, but I had to decline, remembering that he and Sambora had not exactly hit it off.amazing-larry-like-he-owns-the-place

On my way home, and many times since, my thoughts turned to Amazing Larry. He was a good companion, was cheerful in spite of his being trapped in a stairwell for hours, gave me the courage to face my inner demons and vanquish them. He was one of those rare individuals beautiful both on the inside and on the outside. May his legend live long and may poets sing his name in generations to come.

Friday Robots

Brown paper robots.friday-robots-12-5-8-2 Leafy robots.friday-robots-12-5-8

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Sgt. Pepper’s Endlessly Touring Band

paul-tug-of-war-liner-notesDid Paul McCartney record a follow-up to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? He didn’t ever say so, at least to my knowledge, but his 1973 album Band on the Run could be seen as a continuation of the Sgt. Pepper story.

McCartney was the one who came up with the original idea to have the Beatles record an album as another band. Sgt. Pepper is credited as the first concept album: an album that is not simply a collection of songs but a thematic whole. In this case, The Beatles became Sgt. Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band. The songs they played were not Beatles’ songs, they were Sgt. Pepper songs. I’m not sure how much differently the songs would have turned out had they simply recorded “another Beatles album.” With the exception of the first two tracks and the closing Sgt. Pepper’s (Reprise), there isn’t much inherently different from songs the band was playing already. What the heck, it was the first concept album, they were allowed a little leeway.

McCartney was the driving force behind the idea of playing as Sgt. Pepper, so it would be natural for him, of all the former Beatles, to do a sequel of sorts.

Band on the Run begins with the title track about an unnamed band. They first become bored within “these four walls.” Could this be the studio in which the Beatles trapped themselves for the second half of their career? Then, the unnamed band apparently gets tangled up with the local law and have to make a run for it. Sgt. Pepper’s band is no doubt an unruly group of miscreants, so it wouldn’t be hard to imagine them being pursued right after a gig (kind of like a psychedelic Blues Brothers).
There are more echoes from Sgt. Pepper’s to Band on the Run. Mrs. Vandebilt is a character sketch in a similar vein to Lovely Rita. Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me) uses a cut-and-paste technique that reminds me of Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! Bluebird…well, okay, that one sounds like Blackbird, from the White Album. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five is an exercise in forward-thinking, a funky (and, admittedly, not very successful) version of A Day in the Life. While Day in the Life was (and still is) a singular, masterful song, 1985 sounds like the disco that was becoming more and more popular through the 70’s. Sgt. Pepper lost a few of his key bandmates between the two albums, and while they’re still trying, the sound just isn’t quite the same. One thing to note about 1985, though, is that, at very end of the song in the fadeout, it cuts back to Band on the Run, giving the album a circular feel. Also, and important to my theory, it closes the album in the same way that Sgt. Pepper’s (Reprise) did for its album. It’s like a band closing a live show with an encore of their big hit.
In my mind, Sgt. Pepper fronts a jokey road show band. They travels from town to town, endlessly touring, losing and gaining members as they roll down the road. It makes me happy to think Sgt. Pepper and his friends are still playing somewhere, maybe getting enough money together to record another album from time to time. That’s why, flaws aside, Band on the Run is special to me. Sgt. Pepper resurfaced, however briefly, in 1973.