Saturday, November 22, 2014

disjointed stories of ribs and cats and why not, huh?

The other day walking down a sidewalk, Josie in the lead at the end of his leash, a man walks toward us, an older man, a gentleman, tall, wearing roomy, black pants and a maroon jacket, the jacket open and swinging a bit from broad shoulders. He has a lilting gait punctuated by a black cane. The man looks at Josie, smiles broadly, his face full-featured and loose as if always ready to stretch into a smile, a frown, a scowl, a question mark, any of a thousand things at the slightest provocation. Josie often brings forth a smile and I expect next this man to say “What a cute dog!” or “What a cutie!” or “Aren’t you cute?!” because that is often what people say after they smile, but then, as we are passing, what this man says is, “Why not, huh?” And he says it with such a soft chuckle it is as if the words are flowing across pebbles in a stream.

We awoke to the sound of “miaow.” Then again, louder, “MIAOW.” Elliott, at the foot of the bed, raised his head. Josie, under the covers, stirred.


Elliott is off the bed like a shot, out of the room. Josie stirs and wriggles his way up from the covers, paws at my neck, my hair, licks my face. I roll over, push him away.

“Miaow, MIAOW.”

It is 3:31 a.m.

I get up, go out on the deck, and the stars are bright. The miaows become yowls, the yowling and growling two cats do prior to a fight, like the Jets and the Sharks singing Sondheim. It seems they are over there, the cats, in the neighborhood beyond the wall, maybe near the gate to the barranca, the concrete gully that separates the neighborhoods, so I go back inside, back to bed, and soon the yowling and growling and miaowing stops and so Elliott comes back to bed, wants under the covers, snuggles fore while Josie, already, is snuggled aft.

It takes a while to get back to sleep. In the morning Elliott does not go out, just hunkers down this side of the patio door, looking out.

Four weeks after the surgery to mend her broken hip, I find my mom in the physical therapy room where she is standing between two parallel bars, her head down, her hands with a tight grip on the wooden bars. Her wheelchair is behind her and a physical therapist, a man in dark blue scrubs, is in front of her, coaxing her along, encouraging her, telling her what to do. To say she is standing may be a bit generous, but she is nearly upright and with the combined strength of all four limbs she is, indeed, momentarily supporting herself. I come in from behind and am told to walk around, to get in front of her, to let her see me, and so I do that and she is told to look up so she does and she sees me and Josie (I am holding Josie) and she smiles. It seems as if for a moment she relaxes, stands easily. Then the struggle returns and she finally tells the physical therapist she is done and she sits in the wheelchair. I stand next to her and she pets Josie and the physical therapist pets Josie and I can tell Josie would rather he did not. Later, when I put Josie down, he growls at the guy in blue scrubs. And later, when I tell my mom that it was great that she was standing, she says, “Why? I’ve been standing all my life.”

I had a craving for rib tips, and it reminded me of when I was in Las Vegas earlier this year, and Louis and his daughter and son-in-law and I went to a barbecue restaurant and I was thinking of rib tips, then, too, but they weren’t on the menu, but tri-tip was and I’d never heard of that but somehow I came to think maybe tri-tip is what I am thinking of, not rib tips, so I ordered it and it was not what I was remembering at all, tri-tip was not rib tips, and it seems so obvious now, of course, but there it is.

I used to get rib tips at Hecky’s Barbecue in Evanston, Illinois, and I can well remember the Styrofoam container loaded with those rib tips smothered in barbecue sauce, the thick potato fries. and the bread, the wonderful slabs of white bread that soaked up all the luscious, dark, reddish brown sauce. It was a mess. It was wonderful. It sat like a brick in the stomach for days. I didn’t get this meal too often, but I remember I did get it once during a time when I was a vegetarian. I ate the tips and fries and sopped up the sauce with the bread down at the beach, along Lake Michigan.

I searched online and couldn’t find rib tips in Ventura so I stopped at a grocery store ending up with a turkey bacon avocado sandwich on a sourdough roll, a bag of sweet potato chips, and The New York Times. I checked out through the express lane and when the checker passed the Times over the scanner she said something about it being The New York Times, huh, and checking the weather back East. I smiled vaguely, said something like yes, and she asked if I were from there, back East, and I said no, I’m from Michigan, and the guy behind me in line said something like oh, what part of Michigan? So I said the Upper Peninsula of and he said oh, my ex-wife was from the Upper Peninsula. Said he knew it well. The lakes, the rivers, the waterfalls. It’s beautiful there, he said, or something like that. And I agreed, beautiful there, or something like that. I was not paying much attention. I was kind of caught up in a reverie of home.

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