Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Tsunami of a Property Problem


Esmeralda, Property Mistress. (Take that smirk off your puss, Malka, or someone will swipe it off.) Seems a thousand moons ago, I was thrilled to get this title. Yotur became Property Manager about the same time, but he’s always assumed his duties to consist of keeping an eye on our food supplies. I say eye, because if he lifts a paw, he’s likely to unbalance. Easiest for him to work lying down. Now I’m nimble on my paws and have no problem lifting one up to whack a runaway spoon. I like to keep my claws sharpened on the kitchen table or window bench, stolid wooden things that can’t easily avoid me. Originally from Mexico, they still haven’t learned to speak proper Kani (animal lingo). Which brings me to today’s Tsunami of a property problem (we cats watch such thriller movies with Brenda Biscuit).

It’s caused by authentication papers. Who’d have thought that, after all the traveling to and fro of property, a moon should come when a respectable item of kitchenware such as a stainless steel tea kettle should be asked for proof of its origin and legal entry into San Jose. This requirement of provenance receipts and sales documents has set our Willis Street house into as devastating a tremor as might an earthquake (according to Birdo who shook through one). Every few minutes, some plate or bowl is desperately requesting I turn them over to find a trademark. Hey, my paws aren’t meant to heft pottery. Slap it around a bit if it doesn’t move out of my way, yes. Our antique Chinese brass wares are particularly disturbed, “We come with august family on ship to Seattle port, thousands and thousands of suns ago. No papers needed. Or if papers, they are now dust.” The Russian samovar in the living room has been groaning about revolutionary edits and programs, but only a couple of Russian books can make any sense of its mutterings. Several Turkish plates hanging up in the kitchen have requested we affix them permanently to the wall. A carpet on a chest in the bedroom keeps repeating it is Oriental not Iranian. No papers for that rug, either, just a safety-pinned tag reading “hang out on clothesline once a year and beat to get rid of dust and moths.” Those two wooly German Christmas socks befriended by my predecessor, Property Mistress Douglasina, have snuck into hiding in our garage.

The fur in our animal ears is getting flattened by the barrage of questions, cries for help, shrieks of protest. I’ve no adequate answers to stop the noise jam. Soon I’ll have only ear holes like Birdo and Varna. Imagine what chaos will occur when the Property Police raid our Collective and our, mostly useful, things get taken away to be shipped back to where they were born! No Made-in-India begging bowl for us, cats and dogs. Birdo and Varna will lose their Chinese manufactured metal homes (they say this might be okay). Our shelves would be bare of knickknacks and books (no more scratchable, chewable book spines). Even chairs constructed out of genuine American tree wood are creaking nervously. Yotur is scrutinizing the small print on Friskies cans to determine if they are U.S. products. It’s a horrific scenario.

We members of the Willis Street ABCD Collective believe that only a widespread, organized protest by animal households will cause the authorities to pause in implementing whatever unjust laws are creating such devastatingly disruptive social turmoil. Voice your indignation at this cruel treatment of our necessary and legitimately employed property, animal citizens of San Jose!

Reported by Esmeralda, Property Mistress

Sunday, February 5, 2017

These Winter Visits from Ancestors


The trouble with dead relatives is that they don’t really vanish. True, they have become transparent, meat bodies dissolving, drifting away like clouds, but like clouds their spirit selves can reappear. For example, here is my mama, Ragni Ourai. Comfortably settled in a plastic basket we used to share when she was alive, her nose is resting on its rim. If I had outward looking eyes, I would be able to see the back curve of this basket through her head. However transparent, Mama Ragni’s voice isn’t a wind’s whisper. She barks her instructions quite distinctly into my ears. I’m blind but not deaf. She’s tells me how her foster parents, Mama Zeida Patitas and Papa Maruka insisted on lingering around to school her and my papa, Sunja Oura. Traditional hrana (our kani name for dog) tales and entertaining accounts of the couple’s adventures in Mexico were welcome, but their advice for the youngsters, Ragni and Sunja, was not. Although a bit shy, my mother definitely believes she knows everything she needs to know, without any more information, thank you. I feel the same way.

My Papa Sunja is more mellow. He can listen with one ear awake, the other snoozing. My parents’ most pleasurable moments during ancestor visits were those when Zedai’s adopted adult kitten, bossy Miss D. (for Douglasina or Dreadful) received a maaki (ghost spirit in kani) scolding. Seasons later, while stretched out scentless and transparent on our doghouse roof, Grandma Zeidai insisted on educating me, too. Mama Ragni would pace around grumble growling that spirit wisdom was nonsense, but I appreciated hearing about adventures so different from the events of my San Jose days. Oh, to sit on a beach by something called ocean, and be offered fresh fish! My fishie in the dishie was always cooked and shaped into kibble. ”I once nearly tumbled down into a very huge hole in the ground called a canyon,” says Grandma Zeidai. “And you prickled that long nose of yours snuffing Mexican cactus,” chuckles Grandpa Maru. “Remember how you decided to guard our print shop by lying on a bed there.” He prefers to tell me about legendary hrana heroes, such as black-coated Eskan, who stole back Lord Sun’s eye from the monster Swallower, only to be burned white as ash and sun-blinded in both eyes. Papa Sunja recites stories about dogs who in their first or second lives were reborn as a bear, a boar, an elephant, or even as a cat (a punishment, he suspects).

Some mid winter evenings the Willis Avenue kitchen is crowded with transparent guests, nosing and nudging each other for a spot to stretch out. It’s easier now to recognize them since I see with my mind eyes. I’d prefer a peaceful nap, but, as Grandpa Maru reminds me, I will soon have a great deal of time to sleep. I ask him if he returns to our house on Seventh Street. I know he loved its garden and the neighboring streets where he and Grandma Zeidai would take walks.” Much changed outside,” he says, “but the grapefruit tree and smelly bay remain as evergreen as I remember.” Occasionally, translucent Fred, once a human member of Seventh Street Collective, darts into our yard in the shape of a hummingbird for a sweet sip of news from our Willis Avenue garden flowers. He says it’s easier to flit around as a live creature when visiting San Jose family. Humans have difficulty recognizing maaki relatives.

Soon Lord Sun will wake earlier. Dozing seeds will stretch shoots eagerly up through the warming soil to begin new lives. Spring winds will sweep up our troublesome but mostly welcome ancestor maaki into the restless clouds, hurrying them away to a summer land where they can hunt and play until our winter memories recall them.

By the way, which too-solid maaki is eating the dog kibble in my begging bowl? I think I can smell a living cat.

Contributed by Uli Var 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Fruitful Year in Retrospect


This is Malka, senior cat, putting paws to keyboard. Yes, the Collective has taken an irresponsibly long time to add a post, but we have had an eventful year (oops, several years, but I am reporting on 2016). Several of us required special vet visits because of certain internal problems that can develop as we age. In the case of one of us, the problem might be identified rather as over indulgence in pleasures of the palate. No name is being mentioned although I could point a paw toward a stomach.

Last winter our garden finally received enough of a drenching to satisfy thirsty trees and plants. Backyard Pelagiamiru, our outside Collective members ignored the damp to keep up their duties of catching trespassers and thieves. Possums and hummingbirds have been granted special shopping passes, albeit with reluctance. They are reputed not to pay their food bills. The ABCD Collective has been very generous to the neighborhood hungry, but if we are to survive, our labors must produce an income. Which reminds me that I proposed restoring the sign that stated no admittance to our house without at least one appropriate treat per Collective member. Note, human animals consider it impolite not to bring the host or hostess a gift when making a visit. There are seven of us, excluding humans. Please, no toys. We are no longer kittens, puppies, or bald birdie babies, and our tummies have grown up, too. I’m not sure if the macaws agree, but as they napping, I’ve chosen not to get their opinion.

It was a lovely, sunny summer. Too hot for us to hustle about governing our household property. Naturally things scuttled about, got muddled or dirty, when the flick of a tail should have swept detritus away to reestablish order. Esmeralda is the spriest of us, yet she settled for chasing us about with her fierce eyes and a show of unclipped claw. Escaping a swipe was the most exercise Whiskers, Yotur and I could manage.

Grapes and apples ripened first. A glorious crop of all the varieties we grow, except for Cox Orange Pippin apples. Perhaps San Jose’s warm climate inhibits them. Figs were a complete disappointment, nothing but dried drops, despite repeated threats that unproductive trees could be subject to removal, final destination not described. Birdo was pleased with the pomegranate crop count. Not a single pom disappeared before harvest. The pruned persimmon tree has outdone itself. Enough fruit for a bountiful share to go to Collective friends with some tip-top persimmons left for the tweeties. Personally, I’m not a fruit fancier. Catnip, now that’s worth the effort to cultivate.

Enough news for you? Then I’ll close with our holiday festivities. A satisfying solstice banquet was provided. We, miri, prefer to hold our own lunar party for Mother Uma, but dogs and birds love Lord Sun, so, coats groomed, feathers fluffed and straightened, we creatures obligingly raised our voices in semi-harmonious tribute to the author of our fate. After which hymn or because of which, begging bowls were topped with favorite tidbits and Willis Avenue settled down to enjoy the peace we all deserve. In the darkening evening of the year we respectfully remembered our mentor, Grandpa, sire of the front yard Tatamiru family, who returned to his ancestors on a night this past mid-summer.

New Year's Carol
(use any appropriate tune or melodic collection of sounds)
"Meow, meow, woof, woof, and squawk
Sing we among the catnip leaves.
Our wassail bowls brim with broth
And heartily we feed on fish
(or beefy bits, pecans and fruit).
To all our furred and feathered friends
We carol out good wishes for
More food filled days and comfy beds (or perches)
In this New Year we celebrate."

I forgot to record that Moritz of the Max and Moritz act, has reappeared without his partner brother. He didn’t rate a rousing welcome, gave no account of missing Max, but space for an extra bowl was assigned him in the back patio. Like a typical traveling showman, he arrives, brags of important engagements, and disappears again to a whisker waving of relief.

Tail up, whiskers alert, claws polished, I am prepared to swagger forward into the future.  

Submitted by Malka Ilka

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Well-rounded Property Report


Oh, please don’t use the “fat” word, or any flavor of “tubby,” “chubby,” adjectives. Definitely not phrases such as “tum with feet” or “jelly belly.” I am a chunky, rotund cat, a solid citizen of catdom, deserving of proportionate respect. Night is an expansive entity and so am I. Thus my name Yotur Na’Atira, Night during Day. There was a very long ago time (believe it or not as you may) when I was labeled “slim.” Indeed, I was starving. That memory scrapes my stomach even after thousands of brimming full breakfast bowls. Now I can while away an afternoon hour admiring the amount of area I take up on Brenda Biscuit’s bed. Nevertheless I still hone my begging skills, despite Malka’s disapproving gaze. Does he think himself such an aristocrat as to never need to utilize the pathetic paw and pitiful beggar’s mew I have perfected? Don’t demand your right to be fed, cajole, I advise. The result is a much tastier tidbit on the tongue, Malka.

Sorry, I was distracted from my required property management report. I just couldn’t resist justifying my expansive approach to life, which I will defend against clawed comments and Collective dietary legislation. Actually my idea of property management originates with what’s in my stomach.

However, to get back to Collective business, we have an adequately stocked summer pantry despite having to feed at least eight additional mouths. The Collective voted 4 (cats, of course) to 3 (dog and birds, naturally) to take on this charitable burden of providing shelter and food to two indigent miri families: the Tatamiru and Pelagiamiru or the heads (front yard) and tails (back yard) clans as I like to call them. Already this very charitable act has had unpleasant consequences. No more front yard outings for Mr. Whiskers and myself. The Tatamiru being streetwise toughs, pack hefty paw punches, claws out, when challenged. I’m definitely not the possessive type. You can share my kibbles and I’ll share yours. Just be aware I eat faster. Territory, even a cat cushion, isn’t worth a dispute. Malka, Mr. Whiskers, and Esmeralda believe in an extended claws plus visible teeth policy, deriding my open screen door and pacifist preferences.

It is grudgingly agreed that the outside miri keep away pooping pigeons, pilfering raccoons, and unhygienic possums. The Tatamiru also serve as somewhat attractive porch ornaments and doormen, always ready with an obsequious greeting. The Pelagiamiru put on amusing wrestling matches, execute miscreant mice, and supply us with neighborhood gossip. But I miss those pigeon watching outings.

Since Uli Var’s eyes have ripened from brown to white, I’ve volunteered as her sighted companion, nudging her away from furniture, escorting her to her begging bowl or the back door, and encouraging her to do roll and rise exercises instead of simply sprawling supine hour after hour. My efforts are not always appreciated, but I suppose the caretaker of a senior should expect some grouchy growls.

Midsummer is just a few days away and we anticipate being very busy with catnip processing, then harvesting lavender and oregano. Next comes the now traditional grape picking fete, and our famous applesauce cookup. Hey, outside miri, are you going to put your paws to helping with our tasks? “It’s payback time,” says Malka, displaying his long tooth smirk. He wants the Collective to post the same ABCD Collective entrance fee sign on our porch that was tacked up on the Seventh Street front door. Our fee for admittance to house and grounds was one appropriate edible treat per Collective member. He also strongly recommends visitors be warned that outside miri are definitely not legitimate members. Malka’s suggestion will be discussed and voted on at our upcoming Collective meeting. I am in favor of the proposal.

Submitted by Yotur Na’Atira

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Meet Us, The Pelagiamiru


Yes, this is our first collective report although we, the Pelagiamiru miri (cat) family, were brought here to this garden 11 moons ago by our mama, Pelagia. No, we weren’t invited, so, of course, mama hid us in the dirt, spider-space between the garage storage building and the fence. After a while we got offered tasty food and better sleeping quarters in the storage building's roofed patio. Then all of us, first mama, then my sister Euphrasia and I, and finally my brothers, Aegidius and Theophanes, were enticed by chicken chunks to enter a wire box and briefly abducted. It was a very unpleasant experience that I won’t describe. Amazingly, one by one, we were returned by way of uncomfortable plastic boxes to our garden. Reunited we settled in for the chilly, sometimes wet, winter moons.

I’ve included a portrait of our family from the days before our ear clips. Mama was slimmer, less fluffy. Aegidius and Theophanes look like mama but sleeker. Aegidius has a stylish white patch between his eyes, Theophanes an especially cute pink nose. Euphrasia and I resemble our absent papa. She is grayish, while I am brownish. Fortunately, I prefer earth tones. Much better for sly slinking and hurried hiding. Don't strain your eyes trying to find Euphrasia in the picture. Only a luscious tidbit got her into that trap.

Initially the only direct contact we had with the ABCD (aka Willis Avenue) Collective was with Miss Uli Dog, who on first meeting made sure we understood we were just squatters, tolerated until the collective could vote on whether we should be given provisional garden privileges. She stressed that no outside animals ever would be permitted full membership with house rights and duties. However I have heard cat gossip through the back screen door that Mr. Yotur, Mr. Whiskers, and Ms Esmeralda were originally yard miri. Therefore we sprawl ourselves among flower pots, on wood benches, under the persimmon or grapefruit tree, in any spot where one can be easily spotted, and hope for that desired invite. Surely this big building with an upstairs house and an underneath storage space must have room for 4 or 5 more occupants.

When spring breezes began to whisper in our ears, Euphrasia and my brothers began to make excursions out into the world of Willis Avenue and beyond. I went along a few times to the full moon socials we miri enjoy, never mind where. Euphrasia met some interesting toms and decided to move out. She drops by occasionally to say hello. However my brothers like this easy life, always showing up again after a night or two with pals. Theophanes gave me a bit of a fright when he disappeared at claw moon, reappearing at half belly moon almost as thin as his tail and dragging a bitten leg. He’s nearly his old self now. Food and rest as prescribed by mama and me have aided his recovery. But he still has to hop a bit to keep up with our breakfast rush and prefers reclining on his left side to eat.

Since I’m the one always around morning and evening, I was recently approached by Miss Uli, now completely blind, to accept the position of Willis Avenue Collective Junior Assistant Protection Officer, responsible for patrolling our vegetable/fruit garden. Actually, the suggestion was made after I was bumped into a number of times as Miss Uli was descending the back stairs. She mentioned I seemed serious about guarding the grounds from riffraff. Too right!

To date I can report that possums are avoiding our property. Several mice have been executed for trespass and, although crow gang members spy on our crops, we’ve had no raids. Neighborhood miri, even if our cousins, must apply at the collective’s front door for passes to visit the garden. Pigeons, oh well, what can I say. They’ve been taught from the egg to peck up anything they can get a beak into, even if they lose a feather or two in the attempt. At least they have brains enough not to use our bird (really cat) bath. When the grapes ripen, Aegidius and I will probably be very busy up in the arbor. Theophanes hopes to join in the fun. He was better at climbing than I am. We all are polishing our claws, anticipating the harvest moon.

Submitted by Kyriaki Pelagiamiru

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Keep Your Paws and Feathers Out of Our Yard


See these long handsome white whiskers, very efficient pigeon radar when policing our front yard, one of the several jobs which keep me in cat kibbles. These efficient whisker tools are how I got my street moniker Mr. Whiskers. Better curl up in a comfortable chair like Brenda Biscuit does while you read my post because I always have a lot to talk about after my frequent patrols. Perhaps you've noticed me crouched in the regulation cat sentry alert posture on the grass by the wire fence keeping out unlicensed four paws. Believe me there's a lot to be learned from grass if you know how to question it. For instance: What acrid scent am I sniffing on your blades? Or, Is that pigeon poop you are trying to hide? If a patch of grass doesn't cooperate, I can chew it. That usually gets results.

Now, trees you have to scratch up a bit. Then they will drop the goods faster than a leaf can flutter down. If I were a birdie, I wouldn't trust a tree branch roost as far as the end of my beak not to inform on my comings and goings. However plants aren't my only sources for news. In my wander cat days, I picked up quite a bit of pigeon lingo. In fact, I've rather a good ear for pooch slang and human chatter. Probably because neighborhood gossip is such fun. Why would any creature want to fill their ears with TV box sounds when there's the noise of exciting happenings to tune in to when sitting outside in a front yard?

By the way, the harness and leash I wear outside is an official sentry outfit, symbolic of my responsibility to law and order within the confines of our Collective property. Yotur also wears one, but in a junior officer capacity.

So what's the scoop on Willis Avenue now that summer has chased out spring? Uli tells me that our vegetable crop is coming along nicely in the back yard: beans, squash (she nearly squashed a zucchini plant), tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. None of this very interesting to cats. Grapes, apples, persimmons, no thanks. I perk up when she reports a bumper harvest of catnip. Perhaps I can get a pass to visit the back garden to sample the catnip in the interest of quality control. One of our suggested money-raising projects is to create felted wool balls filled with catnip. Esmeralda has been playing around with several to find out how long a ball will last before it spills its catnip.

Crow scouts are spying on Willis backyards but they don't seem excited about pickings on a street without stone fruit trees, corn stalks, or spilled garbage. At least that's what they caw about. Pigeons, what's to say about pigeons but yum. Strutting mouthfuls, excluding feathers. They seem quite unconscious of their culinary appeal. On the other paw, they probably have been informed by parrot broadcast about our Collective's law forbidding hunting on Collective property. This law was passed despite several dissenting votes before I became a member. Wait a few weeks until those feathered gluttons discover a ripe grape crop on the front fence and let's see if that law doesn't get repealed!

Time to head out for an evening patrol so I'll end my post with a last tidbit: a new dog on the block. Max the Poodle, just my idea of the right size for a pooch, no bigger than myself. The right color - black - for appearing well groomed without making an effort. Like myself he has been hired into a home after several years of rough living outside. However, appearing not to resent past misfortunes, he is ready to discover folk to be friends rather than enemies. By the way it seems sensible that only small dogs are living on a small street like Willis. Less crowding, fewer canine disputes over territory, more chance for local government by cats. This is important if you don't belong to a more-or-less democratic animal collective.

Posted by Mr. Whiskers

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Tell Fortunes


Hi, I'm Esmeralda Gypsy Cat. In case you think otherwise, it's okay to have grown up in the streets, so be careful how you speak about my parents or you may get a paw slap, maybe with claws out.

Are you wondering how a wander-cat like me got to join this collective? It was after the Paw Mistress, Douglasina Prickle Puss, got promoted to Ancestor Spirit. Sweet, I say, but not when I know she's squatting up there on top of our kitchen cabinets, glaring at me with those hexing black-cat eyes. Hey, Miss D. that glare isn't so spell-binding now you are a ghostie.

Oh, back to my history. While Miss D. was still prowling around, the Collective let me bed down in its shed. Free board for keeping rats and mice out of their herb stores. They published an ad saying I was looking for a job as a house cat and could be easily trained up for typical inside duties. Not strictly true, but what cat won't fib to catch a meal? But I guess human employers were wise to my wiles. Moon after moon no offers.

Then this position of Paw Mistress for the Collective (Property Manager is my official title), became available and, of course, I leaped at the opportunity to move into posh digs even if I was going to share them with two arrogant dogs, two monster birds, and two toms (no need to give them an adjective).

Willis Avenue requires less property maintenance than Seventh Street since I am not supposed to patrol our living room or Human Hilary's quarters. Fine by me. More nap time. Just a hint: if you are going to check out what's happening in the kitchen, the best view is from the kitchen table. Scan from this spot when humans are elsewhere. My other watching posts are: Usually the sheepskin covered bench next to the kitchen window. Comfy and handy too for a inspection of our back garden. A second favorite is Brenda Biscuit's fake fur bedspread when I feel like tom company. By the way, my street friend Whiskers got a post with the Collective at the time we moved our headquarters to Willis Avenue. He's tough, out-spoken, and sometimes fun to chase a toy with. Malka still gets his whiskers in a snit if I lie less than a tail length from him. It is his misfortune that I appeared in his yard. Yotur's paw reading is to find a claw in his puss if he doesn't keep his nose out of my dish.

Got to go and see if Yotur has borrowed Uli's basket overnight without permission. More later.