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Thursday, February 28, 2013

On LeavingAmerica - Part 44

The End Is Here

 Saying goodbye to Seattle:Well, it’s been okay here. There was culture enough: operas—saw a dozen with my wife, some great comedians: Harvey Korman & Tim Conway, Lewis Black—Chris Rock. There were symphonies, great restaurants and lots of writers . . . artists (big on glass here). Lots of rain. We will be trading that for snow—which needs to be shoveled. Ummm . . . . The weather isn’t really all that bad here, rarely freezes. Below zero will require getting used to—and so many other things. The aircraft’s mighty engines drone some thirty thousand feet above the earth—six hundred miles and hour . . . the hush of night. It’s late. Some passengers watch airplane movies, others sleep. Wife in the seat beside me. Cats between our feet. In ten more hours we’ll land in Paris, then change planes and travel on to Stockholm, then a two hour train ride and Part 2 of this adventure will begin. EDxit PlaneBy the time you read this we’ll be far away.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Buckmister & Amber - 30

Bucks worried & Pissed 
“Did you read Willie’s blog? ‘Tri Polar.’ Now he thinks he’s some kind of white bear. I told you he was losing it! This is not good. And I heard we’re going to stay a few days in Boots’ house. Wonderful. You stay as far away from him as possible, Amber. I’ll do the best I can to protect you, but stay in your room. He’s nothing but trouble. Remember what he did to Morris? I just hope I don’t get fleas again.

“And when we leave his house it’s back into those tiny cages you can barely turn around. Who knows how long we’ll be caged up inside the silver bird. I figure our odds of survival are about 50%. And if we do make it we’ll probably have post traumatic stress. Our lives will never be the same.”
“Oh Bucks, you’re such a drama queen. We’ll be okay. They’ll probably give us tranquilizers.”
“They should give us psychedelics. That would make the trip more interesting. We’d be double tripping. Get it? Double—”
“Got it.”
“Good.” I give my tail a casual flip, then look into her starry eyes. “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.” I could have been another Bogart. “It’s been good,” I tell her.
“What has?”
Amber doesn’t listen to the classic movie channel. “Us.” I mean like, me and you . . . together—hanging out, chasing around, and having lunch. I mean . . . I love you, Amber. I just want you to know . . . in case I don’t make it.”
“Well, I love you back Bucks. Now will you get over it! We’re going to be okay. We’ll blog again, and I already know some Swedish.”
Right. We’ll see. This blog could be our last.”
“It won’t,” she says.
Sometimes she’s right. But this time . . . I don’t know.

Amber Worried-1 
Now he’s got me worried!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

On Leaving America - Part 43

Sometimes it hits me like a brick wall and becomes more frequent as departure comes more near, matter of days now—and then hours. I don’t think this is my last blog. I bought an inexpensive laptop that seems to be working. Hopefully I will not be off line more than a day or two.
I think I’ve developed a new symptom for the DSM: Tri-polar. My mind and moods flip around like a gerbil on crack—from excited, to terrified, to sad. These damned goodbyes. The neighbors will be throwing a party for us. I am not in love with the idea. I have had enough goodbyes. They are not fun, but they’re good neighbors, ones that we could count on—trust to feed the cats when we were gone, and help when help was needed . . . barbeques and dinners, minor conversations at the mail box. I suppose it’s just polite to say goodbye. They will be missed. I hope we’ll be as lucky with our neighbors on the other side.
I’m feeling sorry for the cats. It seems so cruel to keep them caged for such a long time, not much better for us humans cramped up in those airplane seats, and then from Stockholm there’s a two hour drive to our new home where we will wait for car and all our stuff to get to Sweden. When it does the game starts over—one more time.
Caramba! I suspect it’s going to be about a year from now before we know a day or two of peace, where there is nothing that must be done. Or do days like that ever happen? I can’t remember.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Buckminster & Amber - 29

It’s not been easy for us; I can tell you that. Today for instance. These five guys came barging in and started taking stuff. I mean like they took everything. There’s nothing left! The color box is still blabbing away and Boots’ servant brought over a couple chairs for our bipods to sit on. We’ve been left a litter box, but nothing to climb on.

Willie’s losing it. He’s totally stressed out. I’m so glad I’m not human. I’ve been trying to stay out of the way, demanding the occasional snack when he sits down, which isn’t often. It’s hard to get snacks when they’re up and doing something, and they’re always doing something these last months.
Amber’s been doing her cat yoga to stay calm, but I’m not into that. I just relax, I mean I totally let go, all muscles perfectly at rest . . . no stress. Kind of a Zen thing—beyond words.

To make it worse I’ve overheard some talk of smuggling us into a hotel . . . Like common criminals! I can’t believe that this is happening.
I need to relax.

Catnap-PhotoshoppedAh, yes. This is more like it—easy to do when you know how, and I’m a master of the art. Amber is pretty good at it, but she can’t stop thinking . . . even when she sleeps. She snores sometimes, and has dreams about shoes, a hangover from her past life as a human. It might not be possible for females to stop thinking, but for me it’s easy.
Amber Shoes

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On Leaving American - Part 42

19 February 2019   Year of the water snake, I think.

Twelve days to go. I am totally freaking out. Time is passing by faster than greyhounds, and there is still so much to do. We must be out of the house on the fourth of March. Before that we will be living in empty place for two days—with the cats and a mattress and TV that will be picked up on the final day. Or we could go somewhere. A neighbor has offered us use of his guest bedroom and we might make use of that . . . or not. 

The neighbor has this cat that can go in and out of his house through a small cat door. Boots is a very bad cat and last week he attract Morris who. Morris is an indoor cat and found a way to sneak out of his house. Boots tore him up pretty bad. Boots kills birds, including lots of humming birds. He is not beloved in the neighborhood. Six-hundred dollar vet bill to repair poor Morris. 

Even if we kept our cats locked in the bedroom . . . what if one got out . . . or in. They will need water, food and a sand box. Could we even get into a hotel with 2 cats? I should put that on our list: Hotel that takes cats. Two days in Motel 6? With cats. 

The cats know something‘s going on. Thank God they can’t imagine what is coming up. A neighbor will take us to the airport with so much luggage we need Sherpa’s. Lou and I will both be carrying one cat in a cage with a sling that goes over one's shoulder . . . this and two LARGE suitcases each. Then thirty hours of flight. I have images of miss migrations, photos of lines of people escaping some horrible fate with all there belonging on the backs or in a cart . . . everything they own. 

I don’t care if it kills me. I just want it to be over. I am too damn old to be doing this. I’ve begun to feel old for the first time. There was a time when I became old, probably mid-fifties. I remember overhearing someone saying to another, “He’s that old guy, over there.” I suddenly saw them as they saw me, older by a couple decades. I was suddenly aware that others thought of me as old. But I did not feel old.

I’m feeling old these last few days. I’m feeling tired, and Lou is too. We’ve been packing again. The things you really want to have available as long as possible. We’re packing our suitcases. What are the most important things? What will go in the limited space of carry on? What are the family jewels? Bucky is sitting on the table just behind me, looking at this monitor. It’s lucky he can’t read. “Not knowing is the strength of man and beast.” Who said that? 

Bucky wants a snack, of course. I give him one and satisfied, he saunters off. Sometimes I think it’s more he wants to make me do something than he wants the snack.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Buckmister & Amber - 28

Amber SnoozeI I really must protest Buck's last blog.

First the rug thing:
I just happened to be sitting on a carpet sample when the rug-flipper was here.
Lou saw how it matched my coat which she, of course, thinks is beautiful. So she chose that sample for the house. It's true I did pounce on Bucks yesterday. He didn't see me coming! I'm going to get him again today!

As for the cage, female cats care more about their luggage. What I got is what I deserve. If he didn't eat so many cat snacks he would have more room in his!

Bucks had the purple flowers delivered to me for Valentines Day. He has his moments. I just hope Willie doesn't freak out when he gets the bill.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Buckminster & Amber 27

Buckminster & Amber – 27

Amber - Re CaageI can’t believe this! Amber got another cage! It probably cost three times as much as mine! It’s red . . . and quilted ! Really. But I’m not surprised. It always goes this way. She’s such a flirt. You won’t believe this: Yesterday the houseman—his name’s Willie—gave her a whole smoked oyster. And what did I get? A cheap, dry over-the-counter cat snack.

And there’s the thing with this new carpet. Have you noticed how well it matches her coat? You can bet she had a heavy paw in its selection—makes a perfect camouflage background that helps her hide from me. There’s no way she can really hide from me, but sometimes I don’t see her coming. She’ll be lucky if one of the humans doesn’t step on her. I don’t really care about the carpet cause were leaving anyway. And that red cage is way too effeminate for a hip kat like me.

I just wanted you to know what’s going on.
Buck's Paw

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On Leaving America - Part 41

The First Good-Byes

Had my last dental visit yesterday. A damn good dentist, and expensive. He just stopped accepting my dental plan. I suppose I am leaving at a good time, but have been his patient over twenty years. He came into the small designer-cozy lobby where I waited for my final dental scrubbing by his hygienist. Don squatted by my chair and made polite conversation about when and where we were going . . . and why.

People invariably ask:  “Do you speak Swedish?”  No. “Isn’t it cold there? And dark so much of the time?” Either that or some version of, “Wow, you’ve really got guts!” Which in-between the words might also mean, “Wow! You’re really nuts!” Others mention the comparative sanity of Sweden. They’re in good shape financially, no massive debt, and wise enough to have refused the Euro. A world leader in recycling; little is wasted. The people are taken care of; education and health care are free. High taxes of course.

The hygienist gives me a polite hug. I have requested her from several others for the past ten years. She is the only one who keeps her mouth shut. I would rather not be in a conversation with someone who’s got their hand in my mouth—and tools. Some thirty visits, maybe twenty hours we’ve spent together. These good-byes are of a shallow level, but there are some feelings.
            Dentist's Office   Bangkok, Thailand. If you're over 60 this may bring back memories.
 *     *     *
I have also hit the baseline level, just two days ago when I had lunch with George, a friend for more than sixty years. The two of us grew up together, lived next door to one another and  our moms were best friends—bond of total trust with anything, and friends in need—whenever, with no questions in Wood River, Illinois. So many years and miles ago.

We had a four hour lunch together, talking non-stop. We have always had good conversations. He’s well read, an MIT grad—smarter than myself which makes him interesting, almost naively modest. Seemed as though we could have talked another four hours easy, and I didn’t even have a drink. It was surprising; off-the-wall thing from our past that we remembered, incidents from years ago. People we’d known— remembered adolescence . . . growing up together off and on.

We were both comfortably aware, as if ignoring this pivotal moment . . . the last time we would ever see each other in the flesh. So many years and pleasant dinners with our wives, their place or ours. Our spouses have became good friends and we share random e-mails . . . always kept in touch.

It was so nice, that four hour lunch, and one day later . . . kind of sad.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Buckmister & Amber - 26

Wow! She’s putting up a fight. She’s vicious with those nails, and wants no part of this.
“Merrooow,” she snares. She's fast and has a temper . . . and she’s out!

“Too small.” Lou looks at me but I ignore her and then I saunter off to see where Amber’s gone. She’s probably hiding underneath the bed find her right away. This nose of mine is just like radar, much more sensitive than any dog’s. 

“Are you okay,” I ask. We don’t use words, but Amber knows exactly what I’m thinking.
“No! They’re going to put us in those bloody cages.”
“Yes. I told you that two days ago. Not for a short time either. . . We could die.”
“You’re such a drama queen,” she sniffles. Amber has a sinus problem.
“We’ll, we could. We’re going on the silver bird. I overheard Lou making the arrangements. I thought we would go First Class, but no, we will be on the floor . . . Economy.”
“Economy? You’re kidding.”
“In economy” I tell her. “We change planes in Paris.”
“I’d like to see Paris again,” she meews.
“Right.” Amber is into the past lifetimes thing—reincarnation. I think she’s in for a rude unawakening.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

On Leaving America - Part 40

Shipping the Volvo

Most of you have had the experience of selling a house, but you may never have shipped a car to Sweden. This is a good thing. It must seem odd for us to be shipping a Volvo to Sweden, but for some reason Volvos are more expensive there than they are here. Go figure.

This was my first and hopefully my last experience with overseas shipping. Port of Seattle is a labyrinth, an endless sprawling grid of containers, warehouses, box cars, railroad tracks, ships and cranes, bisected with a grid of bad roads in constant use by trucks bigger than Brazil. I’m following Lou who’s driving her car which we plan to sell before we leave.

We stop to ask for information twice and finally find the entrance to port offices. We park the cars next to the humongous ship at dock. My car will be on one like this.
SHIPWe go inside. The offices are very nice. Good furniture and sculptures, photos . . . paintings—all first class. A receptionist asks for identification and we are given name tags that give us access the interior offices of the place. A customs lady greats us and asks us for our paperwork. We are drowning in paperwork but happily have brought what she needs.

“You’ll need an escort,” we are told. “You can’t go in alone, and only one of you will be permitted.”
“Do we have to pay for the escort?” I ask her.
“Yes. They charge $50 or $75 dollars and hour,” she says. “You have to pay in cash.”
The cash thing seems odd, but I don’t ask about it. I just want to get this done. “How long will it take for an escort to get here?” I esquire.
“Not long. I’ll make some calls.”

She brings us coffee to as we wait, but we do not have time to drink it. Escort has arrives in less than fifteen minutes. Seems like a nice enough guy, a good old boy in his work clothes and his sixties. We follow him out and form a short parade behind his huge pickup. Nothing here is small. Less then 2 minutes later we are stopped at a crossing by a passing train. A very long, very slow train.—all containers.
It goes forward for a little way, then backs up for about the same distance, waits and then goes forward again, and again, and again. Ten minutes pass—then twenty. Half an hour and I begin to imagine a $100 or more escort bill. More money than we have with us, but at last our escort comes back to my car.

“I think I know another way,” he says. “Follow me.” Lou is told to go on to the final customs office to wait for us and more paper work. In less than five minutes we are at the warehouse where I am to drop off the car. A Spartan office is occupied by three more good old boys in work clothes. One has his feet up on a metal desk. They all know each other by name and my escort complains about the train.
“Hey, that train’s making me money,” a man behind the counter tells him. “Had a ship roll over yesterday, he tells my escort. Forty-five degrees. Wheelhouse touched water but it righted itself. Destroyed everything inside . . . thirty million dollars damage— bulldozers and tractors . . . cars. They all came loose and smashed against the bulkhead.

The man with his feet up stands and goes out to check my car. “You’ll have to remove the license plates,” he says. Did you bring tools?”
Unfortunately I don’t have a crescent wrench in my pocket today, but they find a pair of pliers for me and I get the plates off. More papers get stamped and I ride back with the escort. We find Lou and go into the final customs office where my stamped papers are stamped again after my driver’s license has been copied. Then they are faxed to some other customs office and we are done . . . at last. Almost four hours have passed.

I’m thinking of the 120 foot wave as we drive back. “Is our car insured for damage?” I ask Lou. “Are the shippers responsible?”
“I don’t think so,” she says.

God how I want this to be over!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Buckmister & Amber - 25

The end is Near

Things have been going sideways fast. The atmosphere is thick with tension. They are making lists, never a good sign. Never good. Can you imagine living out of lists of things you have to do? At a certain times? Sleeping eight hours in a row and missing the best part of night? Some humans even work at night, sleep in the daytime . . . slavery, but they seem born to it. It’s what they do. Go figure. 

It’s been getting worse for kats. The female servant’s brought home two of those medieval cat cages. This is so not good. I’m curious of course, and sniff around the thing. Might as well know more about what’s going to happen. I knew this was coming up. I told Amber, but she acts as though she doesn’t care.  She’s more interested in getting her nails done. I’m a poet . . . an artist with deep feelings and great courage. Hemingway was very much like me.

Housewoman picks me up. Her name is Lou. It’s easier to type her name—less letters. I already know what’s going to happen and don’t struggle—pretty sure it’s just a test. But this does not bode well. She drops me down into a cage and zips it up. I’m in a prison barely big enough to turn around in.

Walls are made of thin black mesh. I can see out, but looking is the only thing I can do. There's no room for movement. I can barely turn around. This trip is going to be a bitch. Lou opens up the top, expecting me to jump out in a panic, but I don’t. I give her my, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this’ stare. She’s gone looking for Amber now. I'll hang around and watch, see how she takes to this. There’s no escape. We’re doomed!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On Leaving America - Part 39

From Limbo Into High Anxiety & Chaos

The house is sold! We have to be out of here on 4 March. In the meantime, ship my car and to Gothenberg this Friday and somehow sell the wife’s ride the day before we leave, or before in which case we will have no means of transportation. Wife’s car, of course, has chosen this time to have problems . . . something with its computer chip which would cost more than the car is worth to replace. Still a million things to do with bank, SSI, insurance, Medicare, retirement papers, Wife closing her very successful business and office, bank things and hundreds of loose objects still not packed.

We thought we had the cat transportation worked out, but not. Can fly with 2 cats in cabin on Delta to Amsterdam. But from there we go KLM to Stockholm which only allows one cat in passenger cabin. This means we have to take separate flights from Amsterdam – one cat on each, and arrive in Sweden at different times. 

In the meantime we must go to Olympia to sign still more papers for cats. Olympia is about an hour drive from Seattle and I’m not sure car will make it. I’m not sure I will make it!

I’ve been having a few beers to help relieve the tension.

Photo © Lyle Bonge     From his:  The Sleep of Reason