This is a flashback Friday presentation from a bit over three years ago. It tells a story about my gray cat, Clancy – AKA The Grey Menace.

Clancy was a bloodsport type of cat. If no other cat or dog were available to pick on, he’d pick on me. He eventually ran out of cats to fight because other rough cats he met would either start staying clear of him or would team up with him to go for bigger game; The Sawyers’s dog. I got tired of hearing the Sawyer complain about how my twenty-pound cat abused their ninety-five-pound bruiser, so I determined to distract Clancy.

Clancy’s favorite way to explore was to ride on you until you came upon something that he found interesting. Then he’d hop down to investigate. His style of mounting you was by climbing up your leg, over your back, and onto the shoulder. Ouch. But it beat hearing the dog whimper.

One day we opted for a long hike through the woods and across the island. The island,
not being too broad at that point, we soon came to the shore of the river. A few boats had been run onto the tidal flat in the flats. Men were busy working the mudflats with hand rakes. Surprisingly, the cat seemed curious. So, we walked onto the flats to watch. Seeing someone on the mudflats with a large cat on their shoulder was not something the diggers usually saw.
Clancy liked his instant celebrity status and jumped down to enjoy the attention. Soon he was watching each worm disinterred from the heavy clay. His gray fur about matched the look of the marine clay on the flats. He didn’t seem to mind a bit.
Now, a word about bloodworms; they bite. They bite each other, they bite themselves, and they will bite you. Considering that I don’t recall seeing gloves on diggers, they either develop a facility for not getting bit or ignore the nips.
Clancy was soon helping with the digging, as he discovered that the worms bite he became more, not less interested. “wanna piece of me, huh? Come on…” the diggers got a charge out of this cat who took his combat personally with the worms.
Digging worms starts and ends on the turning tides. As the tide recedes, you run your boat onto the flat. Buckets of bloodworms and the mud they are in are heavy. You don’t want to lug them farther than needed. Having the boat handy is a great convenience. The equipment appears rudimentary: a bucket, hip waders, and a hand rake with large flat teeth.
You are bent over at the waist the entire time you are digging and in clay, or mud for long hours watching for worms as they wriggle away from your rake. After a digger finishes an area, it looks as though a rototiller went through. It did not bother the cat. I thought I had at last found something to occupy his attention when I wasn’t working.

All of a sudden, there was a wet slap slap followed by a watery, sucking sound. The tide was coming. The cat continued until a wet splash landed within a foot of him. All of a sudden, all his attention was to his rear. For the first time, he saw waves washing towards him. It took a moment for him to process: waves, wet, water…oh shit! With a scream, he was off. Across the flats, to the dry, he ran. He leaped across the access road to the woods, into the woods and was gone. I was left to follow at a much slower pace. I found tufts of gray fur in the low bush blueberries that marked his passage. As I approached the cabin, I heard my wife screaming. He had hit the screen door running, smashed through, and in a panic jumped into her arms – with claws fully extended. Now, they were not mutual favorites. She was not thrilled with this sudden surge of “Mommy protect me!” He was not happy that she was eagerly trying to disengage him. As I entered, he seemed to realize how this looked, and he reasserted his macho self-control. He strolled by me and took a swipe.

We never went back to the flats. That ended Clancy’s explorations for a while. The dog was not pleased.

Sounds Like

This is a Flashback Friday presentation from several years ago – today I am off to visit a boat show.

A part-time occupation of mine for years was teaching media and television production to students. The area of teaching the course that always provided the most significant issues was Copyright and usage rights for the music. With MP3 players, iPods, and streaming services, students could orchestrate an entire soundtrack to their lives.
But the concept of ownership of that music was a slippery concept for them. “Mr.C. I paid for that music when I bought it from iTunes. Why can’t I use it as the soundtrack?” “Because you didn’t buy the music; you purchased a license to a copy of the music. You can play it on your personal equipment. To use that music on your video, you have to have the right to do that.” After a while, the kids grasped the concept. And I introduced them to music in the public domain and “fee for use” music. So much for the kids.

Adults had some similar issues. I had been asked to help out a parent edit a company video. Helping him shoot the video was easy. But editing took up most of my instruction time. He wanted to create a piece for his company using a popular tune as a background. It’s a standard editing style. You edit to the tempo, transitions, and beats of the music. I asked him if he had rights to the music. He looked at me as though I was unclear about who he was and what his place in the universe was. “The call is already into Disney.”
With the students, I could, after sweet reason failed, overrule a wrong call. However, I was doing this project as a favor. I couldn’t tell the client to get out of my editing suite. He explained that his company already called Disney about the rights and I shouldn’t worry. I smiled, knowing what the results of a request to the Mouse would be. I tried to tell him how hard it would be to get a reply from them and how persistence could be followed by a really nasty cease-and-desist letter. I knew at once where his son had gotten the slight sneer he affected.
His editing progressed, and I gave up on giving guidance. People need to fail on their own at times. The tempo of the edit was snappy and appealing. But as time wore on, there was no response from the Mouse.

The panic was beginning to set in. Finally, I was approached with the problem. The video was only going to be shown at company functions. Would the company be safe in using it without consent? I told him that he should ask a media lawyer if he wanted a correct media opinion. I had no interest in making myself vulnerable to suit. But informally, I said things had a nasty way of getting out of control with unforeseen consequences. One individual innocently uploading the video could create a cascade of copyright infringement issues. Is there a way out of the problem? He asked.
I thought about it. It’s common to edit to a piece of music. Some editors have tunes that they like to use; others edit to music that is licensed for a video. It’s not uncommon for the ground to wash from underneath you when negotiations fail. You have various choices: re-edit, write custom music, or find “Sounds Like” music. Sounds Like approaches the tempo and sound of the original but with relatively low-cost fees for use and without infringing on Copyright.
That was the answer here. For a modest fee, the video was completed.

Afterward, I revised my pro bono standards to exclude freebies for friends and was happy to return to teaching students.

Flashback Friday

This was originally posted three or four years ago and is about my gray cat Clancy, AKA The Gray Menace.

A Soundtrack 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 favorites 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, there was a ritualized aspect to his musical appreciation: drawing blood. 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 up 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. If you have been so incautious to wear only short sleeves, you will lose the soon-to-be bloody contest. 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, 1946, I believe?
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.com/2020/07/21/slap-shot/

New Patterns and Old

A Flashback Friday Presentation

New Patterns and Old

I carved intermittently from the 1960s through the mid-seventies. Going to graduate school ended most carving activities, and I didn’t pick it up again until 1992.
I returned to carving by way of small boat shops. My mentors were all boatbuilders. Consequently, my shop looks more like a boat shop than an artist’s studio. In a traditional boat shop, the rafters are hung with patterns of all sorts. Any given model may have additional marks, curves, and notes denoting the changes needed to add, subtract, or modify the design. This way, you easily alter a boat; or a carving. As this was the setting where I came to the trade as a real professional, I followed the model.
My tradition of nautical carving is, in a sense, a broken tradition. I had no access to old carvers to teach me the trade. My mentors in carving had no interest in eagles, transom banners, and the like. So, I was never really sure what my antecedents in the trade would have made of my shop or my approach.
I “thought” I knew what a ship’s carver’s shop would have looked like in the 19th century, similar to the boat shops I was familiar with, I was certain.
This made sense because the carver and shipbuilder worked closely together and carefully coordinated efforts to achieve the desired effects on the ship. Also, they frequently worked out of the same shops. But I wasn’t certain.

Recreations of such shops left me unconvinced. Then one Sunday returning from WoodenBoat, in Maine, it all changed. I had made a fast passage from Brooklin to Bath and had time to visit the Maritime Museum in Bath before it closed. Wandering around and snapping photos of carvings, I found an exhibit room tricked out as a carver’s shop. Leaning against the wall was a life-size pattern for a figurehead. Having seen many figures carved similarly to this pattern, my mind’s eye quickly thought of possible variations with this one pattern.
I was reassured. I went home and started a series of eagles originating from the same pattern, all very different—sort of a reverse E Pluribus Unum. Here are some shots from that series:

First published on March 29, 2021

Dirty Money

A Flashback Friday Presentation

Money has done an excellent job of standing off a ways from me without encouragement. I do remember the night ,though, that I won a thousand dollars in poker, much of it in silver dollars and American gold pieces. We were at a private gaming night outside Baltimore. The sack of coins was a pleasant weight to throw into my pack as my friend, and I made a getaway from the private party where we had won the money.

Being creatures of habit ( most of it bad), we began hitching home. I can only plead idiocy. There we were with enough bills in our pockets to have hired a limo to take us back home, and we were traveling on the highway with our thumbs out. Our luck did not hold. After entering the city proper, we found ourselves walking through sections we neither knew nor wanted to be found in. After about an hour, trouble found us in the form of a gang. We were rapidly stripped of what was in our pockets. They had no interest in the pack. The one boy who investigated it almost gagged on the combined odor of dirty clothes and some Garlic Venison sausage (hefty on the garlic). Laughing loudly at the two stupid jerks they had robbed, we were told to run and run fast. We did. We ran most of the way to Monument Square and the little apartment I had above the Buttery Restaurant.

Dumping the backpack’s contents onto the floor, we were both almost overcome by the odor. But sitting there at the bottom of the bag was the sack of coins. We promptly dumped the money onto the floor and counted it out. Just then, my girlfriend came in from work, ” What the f— is that odor?” “Gold and silver,” I replied. ” Well, you better wash it off. That money is dirty and stinks.”

Knowing that my girlfriend was studying Roman history and knew Latin, I decided to be a wag and replied, ” that’s not true – gold has no odor…or as Suetonius says, “Pecunia non olet” money does not stink!

We washed the money. I got to sleep on the couch. And over the next several weeks had some great parties.


A Flashback Friday Presentation

I was the chief cook & bottle washer. Or, in Naval parlance, Mess cook. Indeed not the chef. Culinary expertise was not called upon aboard the Psyche to serve the Cap’n. The guests may have had other expectations, but it was the Capn’s Ketch, so the cook pleased the skipper. On these cruises, cooking was basic. I only acted as a steward on Friday night, serving whatever Cora ( my mother-in-law) had prepared in advance. On Saturday, breakfast was the prescribed pancakes with wild Maine blueberries and maple syrup. I’ve been able to cook those since my Boy Scout days. Lunch almost any day was King Oscar Sardines and sea biscuits served with hot tea. Saturday evening, we usually planned to anchor in a harbor and go ashore for a restaurant meal. If we ate aboard, it was B&M Beans and Oscar Myer Franks. Sunday was cold cereal with whatever milk remained in the icebox. Lunch was sardines again.

The guests frequently complained about the meal plan, and I just shrugged. They were his children, and they knew from experience how set he was in his ways. They hoped that, as a relative outsider, I might be able to persuade him. But I’d fallen for this game a time or two early in my marriage. The Cap’n would put his foot down, and the children would close ranks with Daddy against the interloper. So I just smiled, shrugged my shoulders, and secretly ate from my stash of hidden food items.
I’d learned in the Navy that what geedunks ( sweets and specialty items not served at meals) the ship sold were not necessarily what I wanted. So I had a private stash. As in the Navy, so too on Psyche. You might think I’d share with my wife, but after she insisted that I share my stash with her brother, I became cagey. Yes, I know you’re thinking, why didn’t they bring a store aboard? Great question. I don’t have an answer except that the hunt for mine was so much fun. And they were lazy.

They knew the stash existed, and she would ransack my seabag when I was up on deck, but she couldn’t find it. But I knew she was closing in on my hiding spot, so I got nasty about the entire thing. Before we left for a weekend sail, I hid a few “special” items where they could be found, but not too quickly.
Saturday afternoon, I came below to find that they had located the cupcakes and the granola bars. My wife and her brother were sitting at the table, contentedly munching away. My brother-in-law generously offered some to me. I refused but sat there with a smile, watching them eat. After a bit, it occurred to them that something odd was going on when I reached into the engine compartment, dragged out some of my stash of chocolate bourbon bonbons, and started eating. I watched them intently. My brother-in-law stopped eating and pulled a strange face; reaching into his mouth, he pulled something between his teeth. “what’s this?” “Well,” I commented, ” when you eat chocolate-covered ant cupcakes, you have to expect a leg or two.” My wife continued eating the cricket granola bar but began scrutinizing it. As one, they bolted for the companionway and then to the rail where, as we say in the Navy, they “chummed the fishes.”
As soon as my wife recovered enough, she began screaming to Daddy about what a jerk I was ( accurate). For once, she got little sympathy from the Cap’n. He fell off course, a once-in-a-lifetime event because he was laughing so hard.
That evening we had to go ashore for dinner. Nobody trusted me enough to eat anything I might cook.

The Sea Anchor

A Flashback Friday Presentation

Unlike a regular anchor, a sea anchor does not sink to the bottom to hold your boat in place. Instead, it uses the power of the sea itself to provide drag and steady your craft. In need, you can make a sea anchor out of spare sailcloth, bits of line, and wood; I once made one from a collapsible canvas bucket. One sailor told me he used a survival suit as a sea anchor.
What it’s made from doesn’t matter; if it works. A sea anchor can stop or slow a race to disaster.
Everyone needs a sea anchor from time to time. Depending on where you are in life, it can be different things: another person, a pet, a hobby, or even a job. A sea Anchor can be something you share with friends or a well-kept secret.
The real secret of a sea anchor is hiding out in plain sight. It’s about two forces paired. Without the sea anchor, you go charging into the waves, perhaps literally sailing your self under the water.
It’s a team operation—the bucket sinks in the waves without the opposing force. The boat capsizes or glides under the sea without the bucket.

Very little survives alone by itself; for long.

Spinning The Dog

A flashback Friday offering

When my dad died in 1974, my mother was at loose ends. We cleared out a spare room so that she could stay with us. She came with Coco, my father’s dog. Our cat Clancy (The Gray Menace) automatically disliked Coco. Their relationship developed a pattern; Gray Menace unsheathes claws, Coco reflexively yipped and bounced out of reach.
One day I came home early. Letting myself into the apartment, I heard regular yips from my mother’s room. Standing by the door, I watched the cat and dog engaged in an activity that appeared to have been practiced. Coco was spinning in place. Once in a great while, the cat gently reached out to swat the dog on the rump. The dog would yip, and the spinning would increase in speed. Every time Coco slowed down, the cat would reach out and swat the dog’s rump again. The spinning went on until they noticed me. When they did, there was a sort of embarrassed reaction, and they walked away. I felt as though I had invaded their privacy.
Coco was not the smartest poodle in the world. The Gray Menace, on the other hand, took great pride in manipulation. He’d been successfully managing my life since he was a scruffy kitten found on the streets of Ottawa. His mastery of Coco should not have been much of a surprise. But when my mother decided to return to Virginia, I’ll swear that the cat was sad.

Over the years, I thought nothing much of this anecdote except as a family story to tell my kids until a few months ago. I knew that our politicians loved to confuse and confound us. But they also like to spin us. Yes, we’ve always gotten spun. But, now there seems to be a sort of manic nature to the spinning. It’s used to distract us from what to needs to get done; like voting or taking reasoned stands on important issues. It encourages divisive behavior, mistrust, and hate. It’s in the disinformation toolkit along with gaslighting, and rumor-mongering.
The memory of the Gray Menace, reaching out and swatting, the dog yipping and spinning comes to mind. Are you dizzy yet?


a Flashback Friday presentation from 2019

There I was in a cab headed to Brooklyn. The Pakistani cab driver asked me where I was from, and I negligently gestured out the window, “here.” “No. that can’t be. you don’t sound anything like us.”

I had been away for a long time.

It’s true. There’d been a lot of influences in the fifty years since I lit out for New England. I’d lived in Massachusetts and Maine long enough as a young man to influence my speech patterns. But not enough to fool professional linguists who chuckled, and told me that my New York could run, but could not hide. So I laughed with the cabbie on the matter of our relative origins. He’d lived NYC for most of the fifty years I had been gone.
By the time he dropped me off, we had discovered a bond. We were both “from” the same neighborhood – Washington Heights- in Manhattan. He lived less than four blocks along Saint Nicholas Avenue from where I grew up.
The City isn’t only big. It can be small too.


The coffee had been cold for hours—the fourth cup from the free refill urn at the back of the counter. I’d nursed it and fantasies through the night. I took a last lingering look at her. We’d meant so much to each other, but now it was almost ended. Sometime around midnight, we had met, shyly exchanging glances across tables. The realization that we’d met in some previous existence clear to us both as we gazed anywhere except directly at each other.
There are almost meetings while refilling our cups; the shy smile while I almost touch her hand. We retreat to our tables and watch the cars on the street, listen to the sound tires make on the road when all else is silent. Somewhere nearby, the night hawk dives after dinner, and the sun hesitates to rise. As the street begins to lighten in the pre-dawn, we sit and watch the night workers straggle home, and the early risers stumble to their shifts.
We glance at our watches; I sigh; she opens a pocket compact and checks her makeup.
The sunlight is washing in through the Automats window, and it was time to go. Till tomorrow night, I whisper to her, till tomorrow night comes her soft reply.

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