Holiday For Pets

Daily writing prompt
How do you celebrate holidays?

Don’t ask people how the holidays are celebrated in their homes; ask the pets. The cat and dog will fill you in on the real scoop. How many turkey scraps do they get after a Thanksgiving meal, whether they get chased away from the tree at Christmas, and do Easter baskets have anything that cats and dogs can safely eat? Now, that’s just some of the holidays. I understand there is a closed Facebook group for pets of many nationalities and traditions to compare cross-culturally. But my pets have told me to log in and go away for an hour.

The Carreras pets have assured my wife and me that Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house are absolutely Killer. The cat’s only complaint is that we tend to put the little balls and bells up too high. The dog prefers a walkway around the tree to check out gifts more easily. A more commodious arrangement for his larger size, he’s not built on the same scale as kitty is, after all!

Our cumulative ranking is a solid 3.9 out of four points. We lost points for last year’s lousy performance on Birthday dinners but did pick up a few for a great Memorial Day cookout. That’s how it goes: up a bit, down a bit.

As arbiters of Quality, our cats and dogs consider themselves consummate judges. After all, one must keep up with what Tony’s family does, and lord knows Cooper and Honey are always watching to see if the Carreras traditions slip. 

Our cat always quotes Aristotle, “Quality is not an act. It is a habit.”

Swamping Out

Daily writing prompt
What are you doing this evening?

I decided to use a corner of my greenhouse for carving years ago. I wanted a pleasant place to work. My basement shop was dank and dark. Well, like the camel, I gradually nosed further and further into the space. At first, in an unplanned ad hoc fashion, just a single box of tools and one small work surface. But the periodic wetness of the basement dowsed my creative fire after pumping out after a winter storm. More tools were moved into the greenhouse for the sake of getting work done and to avoid rust.

Around ten years ago, our cat, Xenia, decided that the new workshop was a suitable location for her to supervise father. The imprimatur was added, and the greenhouse became the greenhouse/workshop. After all, as the feline breadwinner, so to speak, she needed a cozy base of operations, and her father was encouraged to place a cozy beddy on a shelf for her. 

The basement shop became where the large, durable stuff was kept. The things too big for the greenhouse – the large bandsaw and table saw, such like that. The key is durable.

In October, we’ll be in our house for twenty-five years and have dealt with what we considered the typical basement issues of an old house. You may have heard about the floods in our towns the other night. I was lucky. The sinkhole opened up a few blocks away, not near my house. But tonight, I will continue the cleanup of the basement, or as we say around here, “I’ll swamp it out”.

A floating freezer does not compare to the dumpster I saw floating in a parking lot as I tried to get home, but it was also something I’d never seen. So, having been a sailor, I responded as such when a drier friend asked me how much water was on the road at the base of the hill. Channeling my inner Yankee, I told him I could have launched a good-sized one- design sloop and sailed close hauled to the other side of town. 

Where the hell are my high-top rubber boots?!

Pensive Puppy

I have to think about this. Father just told me that there may be new kitties in the house sometime soon, and I’ll be their older brother.

He said I’ll be the one to teach them how things work in the house. It’s such a great responsibility; what to teach them first?
I know. “This is my bowl; never eat out of it. This is your bowl… if you can’t finish your food, call for me to help you.

Flashback Friday – Soundtrack for Violence

originally published in August of 2020

Sound Track for Violence

A shelter for cats I’m familiar with plays music to calm and entertain the felines and two-legged staff. Researchers have composed music that they say cats appreciate. I knew this years ago. My current cat Xenia could care less about what your mp3 player is pumping out. Our dignified black cat Smidgen, enjoyed folk music played on my guitar, but my old gray cat Clancy had particular tastes in music- Warren Zevon.

Lawyers Guns and Money, Excitable Boy, Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, especially Werewolves of London (…draw blood…), and many others were on his favorite playlist. He would spend time with the Grateful Dead, Lynard Skinner, or the Stones, but his perpetual favorite was Zevon. As in many things relating to Clancy, drawing blood was a ritualized aspect of his musical appreciation. Yes, listening to Zevon was a combat sport for him.
You’d slide the cassette into the tape deck and start it up like this. Within a few minutes into the room, Clancy would march. He would either jump onto the bed, desk, or his favorite Windsor chair. He’d take a deep breath and let it out while standing on his hind legs. This prep was his challenge to you to come and get beat up. Your job was to avoid the lightning ripostes of his paws. As the music played, he tired of using just the claws and would attempt a whole-body tackle of your arm with all four legs and a toothy mouth. Your task was to thwart this by lightning strikes of your own. Touching lightly on his body or the back of his head, frustrating his attempts to slash you. Laugh while doing this, and you have made the fatal error of insulting his prowess.

Now he leaps for you, and it becomes a wrestling match, with his objective being to immobilize your arm while he brings his hind legs into position to rabbit-kick you. You will lose the soon-to-be bloody contest if you have been so incautious to engage him wearing only short sleeves.

If you have avoided the clinch, you can step back while he plans the next assault. The song ends, and Clancy calmly licks your blood off his claws – mmmm, O negative, an excellent vintage. If you have erred and won this contest for some reason, Clancy’s honor requires an instant rematch. Get the bouncy balls out quickly, and challenge him to a round of slapshot Cat Hockey* in the kitchen.

You might yet avoid a trip to the emergency room.

*See my post on Cat Hockey for how this game works https://loucarrerascarver.c

What’s in a name?

Daily writing prompt
Where did your name come from?

My name is a family name that goes back generations. But I’ve discussed that in previous blog entries. But if you’ve read some of my posts, you may have run across my posts on cats. One cat stands out, Clancy J Bümps – AKA The Grey Menace. He came into my life one August day in 1969, and this is part of his story.

When he wished to, he bulked up. That mass of grey fur made him look bigger than the twenty pounds of heft he already had. He had the knack of intimidating other cats and terrorizing large dogs. He loved hunting vermin like mice and even rats. He was a gourmand of rare cuts of beef, and in the lap of my wife, an absolute pussy cat.  Some people called him the Grey Menace and moved well clear when they saw him. If he liked you, you were OK, but if he disliked you, better stay away. His goals in life seemed to be sleeping, eating beef, and having fights. 
He came from Lyons Street in Ottawa, Ontario. He’d been kicked out of the family early and had been terrorizing older cats in the neighborhood. One day, he walked up my leg over my back to my shoulder and claimed me as his human. What choice did I have? I took him home with me.
We named him Clancy after the old song, “Clancy Lowered the Boom,” because he loved to fight. He’d fight with the vacuum cleaner, the broom, you, or anything that offended him. And many things did offend him.

 We gradually developed his backstory. He was of Irish/Prussian descent. His Junker ancestors, the impressive Von Dinks Bümps* family, were forced to flee after disagreements with the Kaiser’s cats. They went to Ireland, where they soon intermarried with local dairy farm cats descended from the Royal cat families of Ireland. Forced to flee Ireland after stealing too much cream, they eventually immigrated to Canada, where the family thrived. So Clancy Bumps (immigration simplified the name) was from an ancient and prestigious family brought low by cruel circumstances.
When we explained his background to our friends, it boggled their minds, but they knew Clancy well enough by then to exclaim that they knew he was from nobility all the time.

Clancy sat there preening; having humans recognize his innate superiority was good. Tonight, he would defer the beatings.

  • I’ve been informed that this is German for thingamajig.


Daily writing prompt
What brings you peace?

Peace. It’s that sometimes elusive part of our life that we always seem to pursue, especially if a cat owns you. Don’t get me wrong; I was always appreciative when Smidgen, our double-pawed, black cat, would wake me at six with accu-claw. All those claws digging in at once- who needed an alarm clock? After all, a cat needs her breakfast.

Xenia was more subtle – arias howled in the stairwell to entice me to get up. How can you be gruff when such sweet creatures are in pain because their essential needs are unmet?

Now Clancy J Bümps, AKA the Grey Menace, was very direct. At dinner time, if I was engaged in study, I was rapidly informed that I had committed a grave error by choosing not a cat but a textbook. Graduate work was fine, but at five PM, it was dinner time…or the leg would be shredded.

So peace, with a cat in the house, can be elusive. But after feeding, the kitty is all purrs, and peace reigns, until the next meal time.


Daily writing prompt
If you were going to open up a shop, what would you sell?

Yesterday my wife and I went on a frolicking detour. Our trip was part of our effort to visit towns and cities within an hour’s drive that we had not been to. It’s interesting to see how our older New England industrial cities have reimagined their downtowns after the industries that developed them disappeared. There is lots of fine architecture and attractive city design. But creating a viable second act that attracts residents and visitors can be challenging. It requires a willingness to reimagine your civic space, a bit of guile, and economic wherewithal.

I like poking into shops and seeing how the buyers work to keep their offerings unique and their business formulas fresh. But I especially like looking at public art in these cities.

We found a neat little coffee shop and bookstore combined with public art at Cat Alley in Manchester, New Hampshire. The true treat was how local artists had decorated the alley with a series of cat-themed murals.

One might suspect that If I owned a shop, it would sell carvings, but a shop like the one we visited would be more like it. They had an extensive children’s area with programs, carefully curated books, a neat little cafe area, and an interesting gift section. I can’t imagine it would be easy for a manager to juggle all the activities, but I, the old Folkie I am, would add evening folk performers and poetry readings at the cafe.

Hey! What can I say once a coffeehouse performer…well you know how it goes. Remember to toss some green into the basket for the guitarist, man.


Daily writing prompt
What’s the most money you’ve ever spent on a meal? Was it worth it?

I have friends who are genuine foodies. I enjoy a meal with them because their appreciation of good food is infectious. I don’t think they realize that my appreciation of fine cuisine was rendered banal by Navy chow, the turgid stuff we served at various folkie flophouses in the sixties, or my mediocre forages into culinary butchery.
It wasn’t always so. Once upon a time, I had delicate stemware, visited some fine bistros, and had a lovely young girlfriend who delighted in multiple courses of fine food matched with appropriate wines. Surprisingly the cat, Clancy J Bümps – AKA the Grey Menace – got into the scraps. It got so he liked his leftovers in separate mounds on the plate. She flattered his taste in fine cuisine by asking in a pseudo-French accent what Monseiur would prefer tonight. This appealed to the little fart because his ego was large enough for four other cats.

Regrettably, the Grey Menace seemed to suffer the most when the crash came. “What! A cheesesteak sub from the Chateau Greasy Spoon? I can not bear this!” When my girlfriend and I briefly made up, he rejoiced; fine cuisine had triumphed. When we finally parted, I could almost see the debate “Fine cuisine or my best friend?” Friendship won, perhaps only because he did not get along with her cat.
After grad school, things seemed to get better. Girlfriends who stuck around realized the Menace was not just a kitty who resided with me but a central part of the living arrangement. For a relationship to prosper, he needed to be courted. Gifts of medium rare, thinly sliced filet mignon were considered appropriate. This would win over his affections, followed by a delicate chin rub, a brief petting session, and coos of pleasure.

However, he was a cat of simple but refined sensibilities. Thinking of courting an adorable young woman, I fixed upon taking her to a ruinously expensive restaurant in Boston. The entire entertainment budget for three months is gone in an hour, but her complaints about the service were grating, this was too cold, or that too hot. At last, she broached the subject which most disturbed her, “Whatever possessed you to bring me here?”Realizing that the evening was ruined, I asked for the leftovers to be boxed to take home. Her look of dismissal bothered me not one bit. On the street, I apologized that a pressing post-prandial appointment would force me to leave her to find her own way home. I walked to my car as she fumed on the sidewalk. And no, I did not feel like a cad.
On getting home, I opened the box of leftovers for Clancy. He picked them over and returned to a bowl of kibble, giving me a disdainful look. Obviously, my cat was a member of  Les Amis d’Escoffier, the feline division, and I was hopeless. Since then, I merely trust my foodie friend’s sense of outstanding cuisine. 
Eventually, I married a wonderful woman who did not care about my culinary idiocy and of whom Clancy approved. Peace at home is a beautiful thing.


Daily writing prompt
What’s your go-to comfort food?

I am very easy. My go-to comfort food is vanilla ice cream with fresh blueberries, nuts, and homemade maple syrup. But I lived for many years with a cat whose preference in comfort food was rare thin sliced roast beef. Clancy J. Bumps ( technically, there should be an umlaut over the U) would do anything for nice thin sliced roast beef; I forgot he liked hot peppers on it too. You say, what did you do to allow your cat to get such habits? Well, it was a matter of diet, my diet.

Clancy joined me near the end of my days as a folkie wanderer. He commandeered me one day while I was living in Ottawa, Ontario, and decided that I’d do. Locals said he’d been kicked out of his feline family for brawling with his mother, siblings, and anyone else nearby. He climbed to my shoulders by clawing up my pants and shirt. From the top of my head, he claimed me by right of feline conquest.In those rough days, I rarely had a home-cooked meal. Sub shops were my primary recourse for a balanced diet; lots of tomatoes, onions, and lettuce with the deli meat or roast beef. He ate whatever I did for a while and developed a taste for roast beef slathered in hots.

Of course, after I settled, my diet expanded, as did his. But beef items remained his favorite. My father had a friend who was a butcher in New York City. My dad would deep freeze an entire filet mignon for us when he visited, and soon Clancy was an Epicurean delighting in the joys of thinly sliced filet.

Life was good!

War Games

Daily writing prompt
What’s your favorite game (card, board, video, etc.)? Why?

I rarely play board games anymore. But years ago, they were a primary way for me to set my mind free of the stress of grad school. Daily life was reading hundreds of pages of ethnography, analysis, theoretical writings, classes, and working on the assigned projects. From September to late May, there was no time for reading fiction; if I read it, it was professional literature. The main release from this was the active weekend party scene, but the truth is one can not always party, though I tried. The motto of my group was “Work hard, party harder.”

So when not working hard or partying, I found myself in my apartment with a massive wargame on the floor. It was a great way to get my frustrations out. Of course, in these pre-computer days, I played against myself. At least, I played against myself until my large grey cat Clancy, AKA the Grey Menace, took note of the game. One day, he started paying attention to the game when he grew bored with the sparrows and grackles that came to the feeder I had placed on the fire escape. Wandering over, he noticed I was moving small unit counters over the map, consulting charts, and throwing dice. What’s not to love for a cat? Small objects moving, dice, and father on the ground hunched over, playing with them. Add catnip, and who could blame a cat for positing that this was as nearly perfect as possible? Playing one of these games alone is doable, but it’s more fun with a partner, so I called Clancy over and explained the game to him. “you’ll be Napoleon, and this is your army. Where shall we move this unit?” He stretched out a paw and touched a unit of the Imperial Guard. “Great choice!” I began giving him tips on tactics. He glared at me seeming to say, ” I am the great Napoleon. You dare to teach me tactics?” He huffed. I said, “OK, go ahead and lose the game. ” 

After a while, the beer I was drinking caught up with me, and I got up to go to the toilet. When I returned there, he sat looking smug. There was something different about the board, but I didn’t see it until Napoleon’s turn when an Imperial Guard unit flanked me and attacked. My unit was routed and lost combat effectiveness. I smelled a rat and glared at the Menace. My counterattack forced his headquarters to retreat. And so it went for five or so turns. I got up and went into the kitchen for another beer. Sneaking back into the living room, I spied him, nudging a piece off the map. It was one of mine! “You little turd! You’re cheating. I rushed in and started shouting at the cat. He merely sat there glaring at me and swatted me with a paw full of sharp weapons. He then swept the pieces off the map with one paw and stalked off to watch birds. His body language implied that our game was one more frippery for which the Great Napoleon had no more time.

I guess I never learned. I continued to play against the Great Napoleon but kept a closer eye on him. When they remodeled the apartment, I am sure they found hundreds of small gaming pieces under the moldings. I watched, but he always managed to stir things up.

Years later, I watched Bill and Ted’s Great Adventure. There is a scene in the movie where all the great men they’ve brought forward from history demonstrate their abilities. They introduce Napoleon and play a game of chess with him; frustrated and in a pique, he takes his baton and sweeps the board clean. I was reminded of a large grey cat who clearly was channeling the original Napoleon.

I now play games on the computer. And no subsequent cat has expressed any interest in playing a computer game with me—nothing to bat about, I presume.

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