Friday, June 20

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

I was feeling a little down because I haven't really been getting as many views on my blog as I'd like. Then I heard an interview with a woman who had a kitten blog that was getting hundreds of readers.

I admit I was a bit resentful at first. After all here I am sweating away to produce a blog of humor and inspiration and all she is producing is crap about cats. Young adorable cats with big eyes and fur that looks so soft that you could just eat them up...who's a pretty kitty? who's a pretty kitty?...

But I digress.
After giving it a little thought it occurred to me that rather than begrudge this woman her success, I might follow her example. I might be able to get hundreds of readers too if I just wrote about kittens once in a while. It also helps, I've been told, to have a picture of some unbearably endearing neonatal felines included in the blog, so that is what the photo above is all about. Also it is good if the reader can get involved in the life story of the cats, especially if one or more are in some sort of peril.

To facilitate my narrative I've assigned names to the cats in the photo and am fabricating the fiction that they are in some way related. You know, "sisters" and "brothers" - that sort of thing.

Their noms-de-chat are, from left to right, Fluffy, Cookie, Sweetie, Brownie, and Sugarplum. Cookie and Sweetie are females; Fluffy, Brownie and Sugarplum are males.

Sugarplum had a difficult birth and is a bit sickly and there is a question of whether or not he will make it. Cookie and Sweetie are very concerned about Sugarplum, but Fluffy only cares about what the next meal will be.

Brownie is a bit of a rascal and is always getting into tight spots.

Fluffy, Cookie, Sweetie, Brownie, and Sugarplum reside with the Poorchild family who live in abject poverty. Why a financially disadvantaged family would decide to keep five cats is a mystery to me, but this plot device seems to be very common in cat literature so I am including it here.

Little Molly Poorchild, the youngest daughter, loves all the kittens but is especially fond of Sugarplum. Molly also is sickly and so identifies with the struggle Sugarplum must put forth each day just to survive.

Mr. Poorchild, who works part-time as a coal miner, has managed to scrape together enough money for the medication that may be able to help Molly. But Molly knows that Sugarplum also needs medicine. Molly knows where her father has concealed the money to pay for her prescription, and is planning to take that money and get Sugarplum the medicine that is so vital to his well being.

What will happen to Molly and Sugarplum? 

Oh, who cares. It's just cats. It's not like I'm going to lose any sleep over it.


Microsoft Word Document: Created at 2:36AM

"You did WHAT?!!!"

Molly had never seen her father so mad. Even when her brother Jacob spilled an entire bottle of milk and they had to spend a week drinking coal-water for breakfast. Even when the electric company shut off the lights. Even when the mailman brought that letter.

He had been mad those times, of course, but his face had never been this red and his eyes had never been this mean.

She was sitting across from him at the kitchen table, holding Sugarplum in the crook of her left arm. She pulled the animal a little bit closer as if to shield him from her father's wrath. "Sugarplum was sick, daddy. He needed med'cine."

"You need medicine too, Molly. You need..." His voice broke and Molly saw his shoulders sag like a dead tree weighted with snow.

After taking a moment to control himself he asked sadly, "Where's the cat medicine?"

Molly handed over the white pharmacy bag. Mr. Poorchild opened it and looked inside.

There were two bottles of medicine and a note from the pharmacist.

"The little girl gave me an envelope of money and asked for some medicine for her cat. I noticed there was a prescription in the envelope so I filled that, too. Tell her to take good care of that kitten. He's adorable."

As Mr. Poorchild examined the two containers Sugarplum wriggled free of Molly's grasp. She tried to grab him, but he darted across the table and began nuzzling one of her father's calloused and weathered hands.

"Look, Daddy! Sugarplum is giving you lovies!" giggled Molly.

"So he is," said Mr. Poorchild as Sugarplum stretched up to lick the tear that was running down his cheek. "So he is."


The elderly, wizened writer stumbled slumberously back to bed. He glanced at the angry red numerals on the digital clock that sat accusingly on the bed-table. 


As he slipped between the sheets his wife stirred and mumbled, "Blog again?"




"How'd it turn out?"

"They'll be fine."

"Molly and Sugarplum too?"


"God bless you," she yawned as she rolled over and settled next to him.

"One thing, though."

"What's that?" She was almost asleep.

"I may have spilled an entire bottle of milk."

"Well," she said, "it's coal-water for you, then."


Wednesday, June 11

Random Thoughts on Nicknames

I've always been intrigued by nicknames, particularly when a given nickname is a variation of a person's last name. This seems to be the height of sobriquet lassitude.

One example I remember from my youth is Hilary Hinton "Zig" Ziglar, a salesman and motivational speaker who I would occasionally see when I was a child and spent a great deal of time watching television with my grandmother. "Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude" is one of his sayings that I remember. At the time I was too young to know what aptitude meant, but I had been frequently reminded that my attitude needed adjusting.

That reminds me of another nickname from those days. A man named Loyd C. Sigmon worked in Los Angele radio in the 1950's. Mr. Sigmon would monitor traffic information from the California Highway Patrol and when a problem developed he would notify all the radio stations in the area. This became known as a "SigAlert" and he became known as "Sig" Sigmon. The stations would then transmit the SigAlert to their helicopter traffic reporters who would include it in their next report. 

I'm not sure what determined how high these helicopters flew in order to see the traffic patterns, but I'm sure Mr. Ziglar would have suggested it was their attitude.

I wonder if “Zig” Ziglar and “Sig” Sigmon were ever introduced at a party? 
“Zig, meet Sig."
 "Sig, say hello to Zig.”

Don't confuse this naming convention with people whose actual first names are a variation of their last names. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would be an example of this, or musician Robbie Robertson. Again, I think this shows a certain lack of parental aspiration.

I have to give the parents of singer Kristoffer "Kris" Kristofferson credit, though. They pretty much hit the name/nickname trifecta.


There are some people whose first names and last names are the same. Sirhan Sirhan is a notorious example, but when I was studying poetry in college my buddies and I always got a chuckle out of Ford Madox Ford and William Carlos Williams. Later we found out Ford Madox Ford had changed his name from Ford Hermann Hueffer. 

That got a bigger chuckle.

Many well known people would probably benefit from a well formed nickname.

Abraham Lincoln, for example, is familiar as our 16th President. His best known nicknames are "The Great Emancipator" or "Honest Abe". But really "Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome Abraham 'The Great Emancipator' Lincoln..." just sounds wordy and awkward.

"Linc" Lincoln sounds much better. With a name like that he could be an insurance salesman or car dealer.

"Come on down to 'Linc' Lincoln's Mile of Cars..."

And what about George "The Father of His Country" Washington? Descriptive, yes, but it hardly rolls off the tongue.

However "Wash" Washington? That's a name any motivational speaker could be proud of. 

"Please welcome our guest speaker at this year's Make Yourself Happen Now conference, 'Wash' Washington..." 
Vladimir "Diabolical manipulator of global crises" Putin sounds so dire and threatening. But "Poo" Putin?  He might be a third baseman. 

Or A Bear of Very Little Brain.


All this is probably a waste of valuable blog space, but I'm not the only one who has written on this subject.

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

That's what "Shake" Shakespeare has to say. 

And with a cool name like that, well you just gotta believe him.


Monday, June 2

Lanky Panky

I was bringing home some donuts for breakfast the other day and had just gotten on the elevator when a well-formed hand stopped the door as it was closing. It was Kurt, the personal trainer who lives in my building. He does not have the muscular build you might expect. Instead he is tall and lanky, a little like James Stewart - if James Stewart shaved his head and wore an earring.

Having a personal trainer in the building is a little like having a doctor or tax accountant. People feel they are entitled to free advice on anything remotely related to medicine or finance or whatever the area of expertise might be. I was once in the laundry room with with a tenant/dentist who told of being peppered with questions from a woman who lived in the building. "None of the questions had to do with dentistry," he said, "but she was only too happy to show me the rash on her back and shoulders."

I find this type of behavior reprehensible and I would not have thought to bother Kurt. That would not have been neighborly. That would have been rude.

Still there was this question that had been bothering me, and I'm confident he would have been highly offended had I not sought his advice.

No question about it.

Highly offended.

"You know, Kurt, you're kind of a lanky fellow. I've always wondered what it would be like if I were lanky."

He glanced at my five foot six inch stature and the bag of donuts in my hand.

"Keep wondering", he said in his hard-to-place European accent.

I smiled genially as I pulled keys out of my pocket and promptly dropped them on the floor of the elevator. "No, really," I said as I bent over to pick them up, "there must be something I can do to become more lanky."

"Well," he said thoughtfully, "first of all you could stop grunting every time you bend over to pick something up."

"Duly noted," I said as I sorted through the keys looking for the one to my apartment door. "Actually I was hoping that maybe I could give the appearance of being lanky without actually being lanky."

He seemed intrigued by the challenge. "Well, you could try standing up a little straighter. You're all..." He struggled to find the word. "How do you say it?" he made a bending motion with his hand.

"Slouching?" I offered.

"Hunched!" he said triumphantly. "You are all hunched over. Like a deformity. Yes. Hunched."

Not wanting to appear quite so Quasimodo-ish, I tried locking my knees in place, throwing back my shoulders, and stretching my neck as much as I could.

"How's that?" I asked.

"Again with the grunting, but not bad. Now try reaching for the top of the elevator." He easily raised his hands over his head and placed his palms on the ceiling.

I straightened my arms over my head as if I were surrendering to a sheriff at high noon and flapped my hands in a vain attempt to reach the dome light overhead. I did my best not to grunt.

"Well, at least you didn't grunt," said Kurt sympathetically.

As I lowered my hands an unbidden whoosh of air released itself from my lungs.

"That's wasn't a grunt!" I protested defensively. "That was a whoosh."

"If you say so."

"Maybe lanky isn't all it's cracked up to be," I said as I straightened my shirt.

"It's a blessing and a curse," he said philosophically.

Feeling a little philosophical myself I said, "I guess you get a lot of people asking you for advice."

"No, not too many. Once in a while."

At that moment I realized I had not pushed the button for my stop. Thankfully the elevator only went one floor past mine and when the doors opened I got off, intending to take the stairs back down. There was an elderly woman standing in the hallway.

"Hold the door!" she commanded.

I grabbed the door for a moment but warned her, "It's going up."  She glanced inside and saw Kurt and said, "That's alright. I don't mind a little ride."

As the door closed and the elevator began to rise I heard her fading voice saying, "What do you know about rashes? And who is that unfortunate hunched man?"