Return From Return To Bermuda

In 1983, a stupid little sailor boy signed up as a deepwater crew member on a 98-foot ketch called Astral, because he thought it would be easier than serving on a big, proper Navy ship. He soon discovered that as posh and big as a 98-foot sailboat seemed in port, it became infinitely smaller, more crowded and less appealing when it was bobbing around in a big, deep, violent ocean. Fortunately, the Astral did make occasional ports of call, the first of them at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club in Hamilton, Bermuda. The stupid little sailor boy is pictured there, at right, in the summer of 1983, way out of his league, and probably deeply toasted on rum and beer by lunch time that day, because that’s what stupid little sailor boys did in 1983 when they pulled into port. And then they chased women and got tattoos. And parrots, if they were lucky.

After all the stupid little sailor boys had had five or six days to flop and wallow around Bermuda, Astral set sail for other destinations, including Halifax, Nova Scotia, Camden, Maine, Woods Hole, Massachusetts and then back to its home port in Annapolis, Maryland via the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The little sailor boy went on with his training and ultimately became a little naval officer, and then a little government contracting officer, and then a not quite as little nonprofit executive, music critic, and general gad-about-town. But over the years, the memories of that summer on Astral exerted a powerful pull on the middle aged man formerly known as the stupid little sailor boy, and he took his surprisingly lovely and accommodating wife to visit each of those ports, and was pleased to find that they were just as delightful and magical as he remembered them being, and in some cases, were even more so.

This month, the ex-stupid little sailor boy who is me and the lovely and accommodating wife who is Marcia finally made it back to the last of those Astral stops: Hamilton, Bermuda. We made the trip as a second honeymoon in advance of our 20th wedding anniversary, which we will mark in June. We stayed about four blocks from the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, so it was an easy walk for me to stand in the very same spot where I stood in 1983 and have a photo document of my return visit, above at left. I’ve changed, but the club was pretty much exactly the way I remembered it, absent some changes to shrubbery and signage.

We had a wonderful, lovely vacation, and I’ve done my usual photo essay of it over at my regular website, here: Bermuda Trip, May 2009. (The photos are inline, so give it a sec to load, if you see little red dots where the pictures are supposed to be). It was a real gift to be able to go back to Hamilton, all these years later, but the best part about returning was being able to do so with Marcia. That makes everything better. Even things that were pretty darn good to begin with. I can’t wait to go back again. With her.

I Can Has Ladyjane?

Back in the Neolithic days before there were blogs and cheezburgers, the standard upon which website lameness was judged was “pictures of my cats.” The more of those you had, the lamer your website was. As a survivor of those days, I’m generally loathe to write about my cats on the blog, since I feel like I’m teetering toward lameness whenever I do, but since a surprising number of folks sent thoughtful e-mails or comments about our loss of Lyla the Nice White Cat, on the Times Union blog and on Facebook, I do feel I owe a status report on things of a feline nature hereabouts.

We’ve zeroed in on Ladyjane as the official name of The New Grey Cat, so thanks for all the thoughtful and clever suggestions. I’m not quite sure what Ladyjane’s subtitle is yet, though. She’s quite busy, like Rosie the Busiest Orange Cat in the World, and her feet are truly awe-inspiring in a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not sort of way: she’s got five full toes on each back foot, five full toes on her left front foot, and five full toes plus a little dewclaw between the thumb and the fist on her right front foot, for a total of 20 full toes and a dewclaw, compared to the normal cat complement of 16 full toes plus two dewclaws. She also has a very odd voice, and talks to herself pretty much continually when she’s awake, sounding like a bumblebee as she chirps and buzzes around the house. So she could be Ladyjane the Busy Big-footed Bumblebee Cat, though that seems a smidge unwieldy.

Ladyjane and Rosie have moved past the mutual assured hisstruction phase of new cat relationships and are now at the “I see you and I smell you, and we may sit next to each other, not touching, but we shall neither look at each other nor actively acknowledge that we like sitting together, lest grumbling commence.” The cat tower of power in my office provides convenient perches to facilitate this phase, as per the photo at right. They’ve actually done quite well together, all things considered, and having Ladyjane around has certainly served to occupy Rosie’s prodigious intellectual abilities, which was the objective, so mission accomplished in that regard.

Okay, so barring some new dramatic developments, I will now try to raise the quality of my blog back from the “pictures of my cats” stage. I’m just waiting to do so until you all forget that I was predicting that the Capitals would beat the Penguins in the NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals, and that I was gloating about the Royals playing .600 ball, right before they embarked upon a six game losing streak. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Goodbye and Hello Kitty

It was a tough day on Thursday, when Lyla the Nice White Cat (who was actually a Balinese-Siamese mix with lilac points) lost a long, slow, gradual battle with chronic renal failure. She had been a much-loved member of the family for 10 years, so it was very sad for all of us to lose her. She was a very petite, refined cat. The photo at right shows her in her favorite spot: sitting on top of the computer modem in my office, warming her butt, and keeping an eye on me through nearly-closed lids. She was also the only cat I’ve ever known (and I’ve known a lot of cats) with a life-long, pronounced cowlick on the back of her head, very visible in the picture below, which was the last photo I ever took of her, at the point where all she wanted to do was sit in my lap and sleep. Her health crashed rapidly in the last week, and as painful as it is to have to make end-of-life decisions with pets (much less humans), it was clear that her condition had reached a point of no return, and equally clear that there was nothing to be gained by putting her through invasive medical interventions that would have, maybe, extended the inevitable for a few days or weeks, but certainly would have led those days to be severely uncomfortable, frightening ones. And I couldn’t do that to her. She deserved to leave us as gently as possible, under the circumstances, and she did.

With Lyla gone, Rosie the Busiest Orange Cat in the World became the sole kitty in the house. And I don’t like or approve of that being the case, because I believe that no intelligent, interactive being in our home deserves to spend eight hours a day by his or her self without someone to interact with. We actually got Rosie when Amy the Slow Brown Cat fell ill, so that when Amy’s inevitable time came, Lyla would have a friend. It worked out swimmingly, though Lyla’s final days came so quickly that we weren’t able to make the same arrangements for Rosie.

So today, Marcia and I went to the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society and adopted a beautiful 18-month old grey tabby with extra, different-colored toes on her front feet. That’s her in the picture at right. The deciding factor for us picking her was when we were told that her tail puffed up big when she was happy, not scared. Lyla’s did the same thing, so that seemed like a nice trait to preserve. She had a name assigned to her by the good folks at the Humane Society, though we don’t really think it fit her, so we’re working to get her to tell us what she should be called, though we’re open to suggestion, as well. Katelin has proposed Lorelei (after the Pogues song) and Wednesday (after the Addams Family). My sister has a cat named Earl Grey, so I suggested Lady Jane Grey, until I remembered that she was executed nine days after being named Queen of England. We’ve also got a running inside joke between my mother, sister and I about naming new pets Glicky, and if this cat was male, I would probably do that. But Glicky doesn’t seem to fit a girl kitty. So the New Grey Cat is, as yet, without moniker. Who does she look like to you?

Rosie is eager to make friends with the New Grey Cat, but she’s still getting her sea legs in her new settings, so I think we’re still a few days away from the hissing and growling giving way to the usual sight around here of cats piled up in the communal kitty bed. I’m looking forward to a new equilibrium, even as I miss the old one.

Year in Music

Mother’s Day is the day each year that I reset the “Play Count” feature of the communal family iTunes account. There are three iPods that feed off a computer bank of (currently) 3,277 songs, and these  iPods are listened to regularly in the car, at the gym, at work, while eating and drinking, reading the paper(s), playing Scrabble and other solo and group activities among family members. The Play Count feature records total plays on the computer and on each of the iPods when I synch them into the master iTunes account, so the “Most Played” list serves as the repository of songs that are most pleasing to the most family members over the course of the year.

The requirement of pleasing three people is a powerful filter. I listen to a lot of Napalm Death, for example, but never when anybody else is around, so they don’t make the most played list, since they are immediately vetoed and skipped anytime they came on in the presence of the other family members. Cee-Lo Green, on the other hand, and to cite but one of many examples, is generally well-loved by the three of us, is never protested, and is often sought out and actively listened to, rather than just shuffled into.

With that as preamble, for the past 365 days (give or take a couple), the 30 most played, most pleasing songs in the Smith family household and outlying empires were as follows:

1. “Lorelei,” by The Pogues

2. “Let Me Roll It,” by Paul McCartney and Wings

3. “No One Else,” by Montag

4. “Call Me Back Again,” by Paul McCartney and Wings

5. “Smiley Faces,” by Gnarls Barkley

6. “Dallas,” by Steely Dan

7. “I Just Want to See His Face,” by The Rolling Stones

8. “Clowne Towne,” by Xiu Xiu

9. “Indian Killer,” by Beef

10. “Sensual Seduction,” by Snoop Dogg

11. “A History of Drunks,” by The Melvins

12. “The Whole World,” by Outkast

13. “Miss You,” by The Rolling Stones

14. “Milkbomb,” by Spot 1019

15. “All Day Love Affair,” by Cee-Lo

16. “Senior Twilight Stock Replacer,” by The Fall

17. “Vanishing Girl,” by The Dukes of Stratosphear (XTC)

18. “The Great Deceiver,” by King Crimson

19. “Underwear,” by Pulp

20. “Burning Beard,” by Clutch

21. “Hurry on Sundown,” by Hawkwind

22. “A Horse With No Name,” by America

23. “The Mob Goes Wild,” by Clutch

24. “Right to Decide,” by Hawkwind

25. “Spavid Story,” by Beef

26. “Car Jamming,” by The Clash

27. “Hotel Figueroa,” by Max Eider

28. “Longfellow Serenade,” by Neil Diamond

29. “Sorted for E’s & Wizz,” by Pulp

30. “She’s My Baby,” by Paul McCartney and Wings


In major league American sports, a team that achieves the .600 threshold in their victory percentage is generally a solid, high-achieving team that’s playoff bound. In the NFL, .600 equates to a 10-6 season. In baseball, it’s a 100-victory campaign. In the NHL, it’s a 100-point year. In the NBA it’s a 50-win season (which this year meant the Celtics, Magic and Cavs in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, and every playoff-bound team in the Western Conference).

In Major League Baseball today, as the season approaches the one-fifth-done pole, there are but five teams playing .600 ball: the Dodgers, the Cardinals, the Red Sox (all of them predictable), the Blue Jays (that’s unexpected), and the Beloved Royals (that’s a sign of the apocalypse). The Boys in Blue have a two-game lead over the Tigers, have won five in a row, and have the most dominant pitcher in the Big Leagues (Zack Greinke) over the first 30 games.

So nobody pinch me or wake me up for another 130 games, beause this is looking sweet dream good so far!