Archive for August, 2013

Big Cat

When we moved to California over forty years ago, I was occasionally asked  “you’ve been to Yosemite, haven’t you?”  For most of those forty years, I’d respond with a certain amount of shame and sheepishly say “no, but I plan to go…eventually.”

We did finally go to Yosemite, were duly impressed, and most importantly I could then say to others “you’ve been to Yosemite, haven’t you?”

Now living in Ojai and occasionally being exposed to rubes from the Big City, I’ll be asked “what kinds of animals have you seen in Ojai?”  I’d reply like I was Marlin Perkins, the now gone, long time host of the TV show Zoo Parade.  “We’ve seen bobcats, snakes, foxes, coyotes and even a bear or two.”  Then I’d qualify my otherwise impressive array of critters by saying ” but we haven’t yet seen a mountain lion.”

That changed last night.

Sitting in the living room and watching the News Hour, I was distracted by a brown shape moving across our just watered lawn not more than twenty feet from me.  At first I thought “maybe a bobcat or a large dog.”  The shape stopped and looked straight at me.  It was at that point that I was grateful for the wall of glass that separated me from the mountain lion that had decided to visit our home.

I grabbed my iPhone and took some frantic photos, fully expecting the lion to leave quickly once he (I think it was a he) discovered that there was nothing to eat or tear to shreds.  However, he was in for the long haul as he spread himself on the edge of the lawn and proceeded to lap up the water that the sprinklers had deposited on the concrete walk.

The iPhone images were much too small to appreciate the creature’s dimensions so I ran for my camera with the long lens and spent the next thirty minutes photographing a very cooperative guest…through the glass doors, of course.

I was even able to call Harry on the iPhone, start a Face Time session and video the live images to Livermore.  I felt even more like Marlin Perkins by exposing Harry to a sight that for even him was a first.

I estimate that the majestic animal was about four feet long, head to rump, with another two or three feet of tail.  I was tempted to take the bathroom scale out to him, coax him onto it and thereby get his accurate weight.  But I thought better of it and asked Sweetie if she would do it.  In the end, I had to estimate his weight at well over a hundred pounds.

He was with us for about ninety minutes, trying out various spots on the lawn, rolling about, dozing and seemingly enjoying the luxurious respite from his less comfortable digs.  It was nearly dark when he melted away.

National Geographic has this to say about mountain lions…

Mountain lions require a lot of room—only a few cats can survive in a 30-square-mile range. They are solitary and shy animals, seldom seen by humans. While they do occasionally attack people—usually children or solitary adults—statistics show that, on average, there are only four attacks and one human fatality each year in all of the U.S. and Canada.

Both Sweetie and I feel fortunate and privileged to have seen this wonderful animal.  We’re also glad that we avoided becoming a statistic.

If you want to see more photos of our guest, click here…

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Signs of Aging

The phone rang early Sunday just as I was finishing up my granola, fruit, yogurt and milk concoction. I hate when that happens because I have to stop, answer the call and, if a friend, talk while the whole thing turns to mush.

It was Coleman calling from Detroit. An old school chum who I’ve probably seen twice since high school, he calls every so often. A welcome voice, he occasionally calls about one of my blogs. Coleman is one of those rare individuals who, unlike me, maintains semi-regular contact with anyone who he’s come to call a friend.

“Hi, Fred. I wondered why I haven’t seen one of your blogs in a while.” I suppose he really meant “I wondered if you were still alive.” I appreciated his concern for my well-being and assured him that my health was within reasonable parameters. We spent the next fifteen minutes talking about the status of mutual friends, the pros and cons of retirement, the dismal nature of the news media and things related to one’s declining years. I said good-bye and scraped the remaining mush from the bottom of my bowl. It was still good.

That afternoon Sweetie and I went to the Ojai Playwrights Conference. I enjoy the conference for two reasons. It’s only five minutes from our house and therefore does not require exposing myself to the traffic and noise associated with treks to the big city. And it has some excellent content. The Conference spotlights the work-in-progress of experienced playwrights as they attempt to fine tune their work prior to its appearance in the real theater. The audience performs the role of guinea pigs and, at a somewhat reduced cost, regularly experiences some surprisingly good theater.

This day we were fortunate to be treated to the work of a dozen or so highly talented, still in school, young men and women who presented some amazing original work that included a treatise on being gay, the curse of having too-big breasts and the clever musings of a hungry dog. It was one of those times when you didn’t count the remaining sets while you prayed for a quick exit to a dreary performance.

But, in spite of the enthralling performance, I had to pee.

As luck would have it, my seat was poorly placed in the middle of the top row of the theater. Exiting would require a grand performance of my own, witnessed by some two hundred people who I knew would know what I was going to do. I toyed with the idea of gutting it out until the end of the performance but I found my concentration too often wandering from the stage to my bladder, now in its own red zone. It finally got the better of me and, finding a small break in the action, I began an ungraceful sideways march down the narrow space between the rows, colliding with strangers’ knees and, on occasion, their toes.

I paced off the steps down to the main level, went through the exit, entered brilliant daylight, found the waterless urinal that proclaimed an astounding savings of forty thousand gallons a year and ultimately achieved blessed nirvana. A return engagement to the theater was now required.

I passed the ticket table outside the theater entrance where the young, official looking woman behind the table said “Yes, can I help you? Do you have a ticket?” Because of the prerogatives of advanced age, I ignored the need to hide the purpose of my trip and said “I have peed and now I have returned. Thank you.”

I entered the dark confines of the theater which, for all I knew, could have experienced a power outage. My eyes, which now require about two weeks to adjust from bright light to darkness, forced me to loiter inside the door while I waited for my sight to return to a level that would permit my climb to the top row of the theater. I pretended that I was an usher.

It was now time to negotiate the all too black steps upward and the much too narrow aisle between rows that I’m certain was designed for anorexic theater goers. I negotiated the steps without incident and congratulated myself on not performing an unscheduled backward roll for the audience.

Buoyed by my dexterity, I entered the aisle fully prepared to bang knees and squash a few Birkenstock clad toes. I passed the first seat without incident, then clipped the next person’s toe and began to fall forward. My life flashed before my eyes. But before I could crash, hands shot out from all directions like passengers on a life boat extending an oar to a drowning man. I grabbed arms and hands, interrupted the fall, righted myself, performed the act once again and made it to my seat, uninjured.

A few years ago I would have been chagrined and embarrassed by my performance. But age has a way of moderating those feelings. And it did.

aging


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