Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving at the Shady Rest

Most people will spend tomorrow dealing with a 14-pound bird; I'll spend it dealing with a 14-pound cat.

Two days ago, as the temperature plunged, Tom and I went to check on Smokey, my cat who adopts elderly people. Smokey has been living 7 blocks north of us, in the greenhouse of an elderly Norwegian woman, for the past three years. We went up last month to make sure the barn heater we'd installed for him two years ago was plugged in, and we found Smokey terribly thin and frail. As was the little old lady. She was confused; the cat was unhappy.

Her son was in the process of moving in to the house to take care of her, and we impressed on him the important of taking care of Smokey -- he'd apparently never had a cat before. The cat has since regained the weight he'd lost.

The woman and her son were pleased to see us Tuesday and they seemed relieved that we were going to take the cat to spend a couple of days in a warm TV room. The reason they don't let the cat inside is that she has severe osteoporosis and has, over the past few years, broken several bones -- including her hip. If she trips over Smokey, she's done for.

Smokey's getting on in years, and less able to survive extreme cold in the greenhouse with just the heated pad in his box. So we brought him home, and he's in the TV room, having a ball with lots of cat food, water, and petting (in the greenhouse, his food is often grabbed by raccoons and other cats). To our delight, the Bombay, Mabel, was very welcoming to Smokey and they get along as if they'd known each other for years. Upstairs, the tabbies are pretending nothing is going on, and Sheba, the deaf cat, could care less.

When it warms up tomorrow, Smokey goes back to the greenhouse -- along with an apple pie for the woman and her son.

I talked with our vet today -- and followup call about Sheba -- and told him the latest in the Smokey saga. I bring Smokey in every year for shots and flea meds, so the vet knows the back story. He predicts that some day Smokey will decide to live with us again.

His first winter in the greenhouse, Smokey walked 7 blocks home every night to sleep in our basement, returning to the greenhouse at 6 in the morning. We're pretty sure he still knows the way home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weather nightmares

I guess this winter storm qualifies as a weather nightmare, as it woke me up in the middle of the night. Wind howling, metal vent for the upstairs shower fan rattling, and the whole upstairs shaking. The view out the kitchen door is weird — gigantic bright white clouds looming in the east, moving slowing southward, and one star visible above a neighbor's fir tree.

The heater kicked in around 3 a.m. — something that almost never happens, as the house retains heat well and I set the thermostat to 62 at night.

Last night I spent two hours driving four miles to pick Tom up from work at Westlake and Denny. While most of the drivers on the city streets knew to go slow (10 miles an hour) there were enough people trying to whip around at 20 that when they hit their brakes they went out of control, spun, and slid off the street. I was astonished by a bicyclist who rode onto Leary Way, a few yards in front of my car. I braked slowly, then applied my horn. He was astonished to realize that I couldn't just slam on the brakes for him -- and that he couldn't just speed up on the sheer ice. When I crossed the Fremont Bridge and got on to Westlake, traffic was going less than 1 mile an hour. For entertainment, we had pedestrians darting across the street in front of our cars, several of whom promptly fell flat on their backs on the ice, in front of oncoming traffic in the opposite lane, causing those cars to slam on their brakes, fishtail, and go up onto the sidewalks (if they were lucky) or into other vehicles (if they weren't). Fortunately, no one hit the pedestrians.

I'm supposed chair a board meeting downtown tomorrow night, and trying decide what do about that. One weather site says the sun will come out tomorrow, all the ice will melt, and road conditions will be back to normal by evening — albeit about 12 degrees. But I find that hard to believe. I need to decide in the morning whether to cancel the meeting, or try to hold it online or by phone.

The situation here is incomprehensible to folks from back East, where a city crews would have strewn the streets with sand and salt hours ago, and it would have been a normal, if gritty, commute. But in a city where snow and icy conditions occur only once or twice a year, buying a large enough fleet of sand trucks, maintaining a network of sand and salt supply yards, and keeping this system on standby would be too great an expense.

I hope everyone has the sense to stay safely at home tomorrow. In weather like this, I always think of my insane employer from 15 years ago. In the far, dark, past, the company had been involved in city emergency services, and it had required all employees to report for work, even in severe storm conditions. By the time I joined the company, it was primarily an insurance firm, and the vast majority of employees were clerical staff who worked in administrative buildings. Yet the company still required all employees to attend work during storms, and to arrive within one hour of their usual start time — or else the day was counted as an unexcused absence and charged to their vacation time. Of course, by this time the company had employees who lived as far away as Tacoma and Issaquah, for whom a storm commute would require leaving home at four a.m. or earlier.

As the editor of the employee newsletter, I had been told to "explain" this policy to employees, an assignment I found...difficult. When I challenged the HR representative who wanted the policy explained, I asked how single mothers with toddlers who lived in distant suburbs were supposed to make this commute at 4 a.m. when the day care center was closed because of snow and Metro bus service was cancelled. His sneering answer: "Well, these people should have thought of that before they stopped using birth control."

I still think of this jerk during severe winter storms. He lives, childless, in a condo in the city and is probably one of those pedestrians darting out in front of cars.

Please drive carefully anyway.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Heading home tomorrow

Today is my next-to-last day in Florida.

It's been a good visit with my mother...we got huge amounts done, from handling legal stuff to putting up shelving, visiting friends, shopping at Coconut Pointe (that's how they name things down here), going to pool and beach, figuring out her new TV controls, updating the firmware on her modem, and discovering that the dust buster does, indeed, work.

I've been walking two miles a day, doing ankle exercises, and was even able to do some skipping tonight. I think my sprained/fracture ankle is nearly healed.

I gave a presentation to her Mac users group (about my iPhone ebook) and I worked on several projects for clients, Folklife, and Clarion West. I don't think anyone in Seattle would have realized I was gone if I hadn't told them. Except, of course, for Tom, who was home wrangling cats, working his new Westlake massage studio gig, repairing furniture, hauling junk to Goodwill, and otherwise keeping the home fires burning.

The schedule for next week is somewhat scary. It even includes dinner with a cousin I have never met, who will be in town for a conference.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Holiday (shopping) tradition: Best of the Northwest

For some people, the holidays begin after Halloween; for others, it's after Thanksgiving. For me, it's whenever Best of the Northwest happens. (Nov. 12 - 14 this year.)

It's without a doubt the highest concentration of top-quality arts and crafts in the region — the stuff not only looks dazzling, it holds up for years. (My favorite evening bag, made from the shaft of a designer cowboy boot, with beaded fringe and a beaded, strap is a Best of the Northwest find, as are my copper pine-cone earrings.)

This year I'll catch only the tail end of it (on Sunday afternoon). Save something for me!

(Note: it's moved yet again. This year Best of the Northwest is at Pier 91, near the Magnolia Bridge.)