Yes, I finally made it to New York after another drive of nearly 8 hours’ duration. It would probably have taken less time if I’d gone with my alternate route via the George Washington Bridge rather than the Google Maps-recommended route through Manhattan. I decided to avoid the GWB because I’m kind of acrophobic and not comfortable with bridges. I thought the other route would let me avoid them. But it wasn’t until too late that I wondered why a particular segment of the route I chose was called the Pulaski Skyway. Eegh, not fun. And then there was a similarly forbidding elevated section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — which I missed at first because Google’s directions were ambiguous for getting onto the Manhattan Bridge from Canal Street (it said “slight right,” but both options, to the upper and lower decks of the bridge, are slight rights), so I went several blocks down Flatbush Avenue before I was fortunate enough to pull up next to a police car at a red light and asked for directions. I guess there’s no way to avoid bridges in New York City.
Nobody was home at David Mack’s place when I arrived, since I came a day later than planned and Dave was at Comic-Con all day. So I just parked (eventually), walked to the subway (or the elevated train, here in Queens — more high-up structures, eegh), rode it to Times Square, and walked to the Javits Center to meet Dave. I was there for like ten minutes before Keith R. A. DeCandido took Dave and me to a meeting with someone who might have work for us. It was in a nightclub with dim lighting and blaring music, very much not my kind of scene, but the business part of it was promising and I hope something comes of it. It would be very well-paying for the amount of work involved, and theoretically has the potential to be a recurring thing. Plus I got to hand out the first of the business cards I had printed up a few days ago for just such an occasion.
After the drive and the nightclub, I was too worn out to keep going, but Dave’s wife Kara was home by then, so I took the subway back and she let me in. I spent some time getting to know her and the Macks’ two cats, especially their new kitten Freddie (Winifred), who’s adorable and very, very friendly, and spent most of the time on my lap — a nice sensation that I’ve missed getting to experience. Even their older cat, Mr. Puck, came out to investigate and even let me pet him slightly, which apparently is remarkable because he usually hides from strangers. Maybe it’s just that I was there at the time of night when he gets frisky. I had fun watching him chase his tail, something he did entirely within the confines of a cat tree’s “nest.”
After that, I turned in, so I don’t have much to tell yet. Today will be the first significant amount of time I spend at the con. I’m not sure what I’ll do all day; Pocket has no booth this year, so I have no “home base.” Hopefully I’ll talk to various industry people and hand out some more business cards.
And maybe I’ll buy some stuff. The trip here was more expensive than I’d reckoned on, but by not staying in a hotel I’m still saving hundreds of dollars, so I guess I can justify buying some swag. While driving to NYC was maybe not the greatest idea, at least it gives me more leeway for accumulating stuff to take home with me.
A little while ago, I decided to walk over to the local organic foods store to restock on chips, and when I got there, I saw there were a couple of people evidently playing with a kitten in the corner of the parking lot. Once I got closer, though, I saw they weren’t playing. The little orange tabby had broken its leg and was weak and struggling. A young woman — whom I later learned was Nadia, an employee of the food store — was trying to give it water from an eyedropper and get it to eat something. She told me she’d called the SPCA but didn’t know when they’d come. I told her where the nearby animal hospital was, but she didn’t have a car. I regretted that I’d walked there instead of driving.
But after a bit, once it became clear there were no other options, I told Nadia I’d jog back home, get a cardboard box, drive back to the store, and take the kitten to the vet. I did this, though I was slowed down a bit when I went right to the car and forgot about the box, so I had to re-park and go get one.
By the time I got back to the store, though, that corner of the lot was empty. I got out and looked around, and another store clerk recognized what I was looking for. He had the kitten in a box and told me he was fairly sure it was dead. I took a look at it and couldn’t get any response or feel any breathing or pulse. I was too late. Although given how quickly the kitten passed, I would’ve still been too late even if I’d had my car there in the first place.
The clerks were wondering what to do with the body, and I told them they should call animal control or the sanitation department or somebody. Which reminded me I needed to wash my hands, which they let me do in the store’s washroom. But when I checked in with them after I did my shopping, the male clerk told me that the kitten’s owner had shown up and claimed the remains. I didn’t get the whole story, but they’d left the kitten somewhere while going to the nearby Starbuck’s. I don’t want to rush to judgment without knowing the whole story, but I have to wonder where they would leave a kitten that would end up with it lying in a parking lot with a fatal injury.
Well, best not to dwell on that. They have a loss to deal with now, a loss I can sympathize with all too well. I’ve lost too many cats lately, too many in my lifetime, and I was hoping I could help this one. But by the time I got there, it was already too late. At least the kitten wasn’t alone at the end.
There was a time, not so long ago, when a title like “Pictures from my phone” would be sheer gibberish, or at best something out of science fiction. But I’m gradually catching up to the 21st century, technology-wise, and today I bought a microSD card that enables me to copy the photos I’ve taken with my relatively new cell phone and transfer them to my home computer. And I can then transfer them here, so I’m going to do that just because I can.
(I actually got the card so I can transfer my CDs onto my phone and use it as an MP3 player. I still need to buy the special headphones that go with its particular type of jack, and I’m annoyed that LG didn’t use a standard headphone jack so I could use a set I already have. But buying the SD card and the headphones are still cheaper than buying a separate MP3 player.)
First off, an amusing thing I saw up on the corner. The Friar’s Club building that’s been there for a long time, and all the houses around it, just got demolished to make way for… I have no idea what. After the last major bit of demolition, I saw this (click to enlarge):
A perfectly intact doorway and wall section (aside from a torn canopy) leading into a pile of rubble… awesome. I wonder how far you could get inside? Not that I’d recommend it. Either you’d be underneath a bunch of unstable debris that might collapse on you, or you might find that this door leads to… The Twilight Zone!
Next, here’s a photo of a couple of cats I saw at the local park a while back:
They sort of followed me from in front as I strolled down the walk — staying ahead of me, with the striped one occasionally stopping and letting me pet her (?) for a bit. They pretty much maintained this relative distance from each other all the way down the hill.
On a more nostalgic note, here’s just about the last photo ever taken of Shadow:
I have a few seconds of video footage of Shadow on my phone, taken at about the same time, but I’m not sure they’re in a format playable online. Basically it’s just him sitting there glaring at me, like in the shot above, while I informed him that he was a pussycat. Which I think he already knew. But it bore repeating.
That’ll do it for now. Now that I have the means to transfer photos off my phone, maybe I’ll take more of them. Don’t expect me to post any Shore Leave photos until after the convention, though, since my laptop is relatively old and doesn’t have a port for the SD card adaptor. At this point, I can only copy between my phone and my (now-repaired) desktop PC.
“The Seal”: An unremarkable tape scene, except that for the first time the mission briefing is on a cassette tape; Jim brings the player with him on a shoulder strap. (It’s worth noting this was considered cutting-edge technology at the time, and was the inspiration for the Star Trek tricorder.) As I think I remarked before, it’s odd that cassette tapes were so rarely used on this show even after they became commonplace.
The mission: Industrialist Taggart (Darren McGavin) has purchased a jade statuette which is the stolen royal seal of Kuala Rokat, a nation important to America’s strategic interests in Asia. His refusal to give it back risks driving the country into the Soviet bloc. The team must get it out of his possession by any means. Their plan hinges on Rusty, a ginger tomcat who’s been trained to fetch things. This is the second episode to feature a cat prominently, the first being last season’s “The Diamond.” This time, the cat is one of the good guys. (But really, a plan depending on a cat deigning to follow instructions? What were they thinking?)
Cinnamon plays reporter to interview Taggart while Jim pretends to be a subcontractor whom Taggart Aviation has been overpaying for his rivets — the perfect bait to make Taggart’s accounting department eager to bend over backward to “help” him. In this way, he sabotages their computer with a doctored punch card. He’s also slipped a fake punch card into the phone’s autodialer (the ’60s version of speed dial, where you had to insert a punch card encoded with the number to be dialed) so they’ll reach Barney when they call computer repair. Willy sneaks in Barney and Rusty inside a replacement computer, then fakes Jim’s signature on the signout sheet to hide the fact that Jim’s still inside. He couldn’t so easily hand back two security badges, so he uses a gadget to stick two together for several minutes, then reveal the hidden badge shortly after a security alarm has been sounded due to the badge discrepancy. This little trick gets the poor security guard fired by his mean boss. Congratulations, IMF! You’ve just ruined this poor guy’s life! Now his wife’s going to leave him and he’ll descend into drink and wrap his station wagon around a telephone pole!
Anyway, Taggart spins this whole tale about how the jade seal has been stolen so many times throughout its history that its rightful owner is whoever happens to possess it at the moment. Conveniently, he concludes that if anyone steals it from him in turn, they’re welcome to it — thus sort of absolving the IMF for the crime they’re in the process of committing. Cinnamon concocts a legend of a curse that will kill Taggart in six hours if he doesn’t return the seal. He doesn’t fall for it, but he’s amused enough to let Cinnamon invite in a visiting professor from Kuala Rokat (Rollin in subtle but profoundly unconvincing “Oriental” makeup) to tell him about the curse. Rollie performs magic tricks to make it seem he has mystical powers (spouting some Orientalist rubbish about how such things are commonplace in the East). This culminates in Rollin making himself disappear (making a sheet appear to levitate with a helium balloon he somehow smuggled in and inflated silently–huh?) in order to sneak to the vault and pretend to be electrocuted by its door (he’s wearing a special gizmo that protects him from the current). While the security system is shut down to save him, Barney’s able to drill through the wall and use another balloon to insert a strip of material that emits a harmonic to neutralize the sound detectors once the security system is turned back on. Interestingly, he uses magnets on one side of the wall to catch the drill dust on the other side, since the vault floor will go off if even a few ounces’ weight lands on it.
Rusty almost ruins the plan by playing with the fishies in Taggart’s fish tank, but is caught in time. Barney inserts a telescoping rail for Rusty to walk along and sends him instructions through a headset attached to his collar, goading him to retrieve the jade and bring it back. Naturally, Rusty takes his time. I wonder how many dozens of tries it took to compile enough bits of footage to make it look like the cat was following instructions. But eventually Rusty brings the jade out, and Jim and Barney sneak out by switching clothes (at gunpoint) with the paramedics who’ve come in to take the “electrocuted” Rollin to the hospital (serves them right, since they were apparently too unskilled to tell he was faking). So the day is saved, the team drives off in the stolen ambulance, Rusty gets the last word, and they all have a good laugh at their morally questionable and illegal activities against a US government contractor in the name of some tenuous gain in the mad game of brinksmanship that was the Cold War. But there was a cat involved, so I guess that makes it okay.
“Charity”: The DVD calls it “Sweet Charity,” but other sources disagree. Anyway, it’s a weird episode. The mission this week involves busting a charity scam. That’s right, not a malicious foreign government or a spy ring or a powerful crime syndicate, just an unhappily married couple, the Hagars, who have bilked various rich people out of their money on the pretense of funding charities. You really have to wonder why the IMF is being given such a minor case. I mean, they already know somehow that the Hagars have the stolen money in the form of platinum bars hidden under their pool table. Why can’t the authorities just arrest them on the basis of that knowledge? Okay, they’re living on the French-Italian border, but America’s on friendly terms with those countries, so what’s the problem? (And their home happens to be the same Pasadena location used for Stately Wayne Manor in the ’60s Batman, at least in exteriors.)
Anyway, the plan is very convoluted for such a minor mission. Cinnamon plays a wealthy recluse (wearing an odd feather swim-cap thing that makes her look like a baby bird or something) who gets acquainted with Erik Hagar (Fritz Weaver) while Jim pretends to be a doctor attracting the attention of the man-hungry Catherine Hagar (Hazel Court). Willy, as Cinnamon’s chauffeur, “accidentally” damages the grill of Hagar’s car, so Cinnamon has him drive the car into town for repairs. Hagar lets him have it without question, thus proving himself incredibly trusting for a career con man.
Jim appears to make some mistakes with his cover story, so Catherine catches on that he’s a fake. However, that’s part of the plan; his real game is to pretend to be someone Erik hired to distract his wife so he could go after Cinnamon (or rather, her millions of dollars). Catherine is sufficiently smitten with Jim that she tells him to “earn your money.” Turns out the gigolo biz only paid 300 bucks a weekend back then.
Meanwhile, Barney and Willy are doing the old “cut open the floor from the basement” trick and stealing the platinum from under the pool table, replacing it with an inflatable set of fake platinum bars. Also meanwhile, Rollin barges in on Erik’s naptime, holds him at gunpoint, and tells him to take off his tie and shoes and lie back on the bed. Just as it looks like it’s going someplace really disturbing, Rollin sets the blanket on fire to make it look like Erik died in a smoking accident. As the world’s slowest-burning blanket gives off smoke, Rollin tells Erik that his wife arranged the hit, and Erik pays him off to switch sides. He then pretends to try to suffocate Jim and Catherine with natural gas, but the branch he’s used to barricade the door is pre-scored so Jim can break through easily enough. Jim convinces Catherine that her husband is out to bump her off for her money, and they need to run away with the platinum first. She shows him where the (now fake) platinum is, and then trustingly leaves him to take care of moving it to their car so they can run away with it.
But the real platinum is back at the garage where Barney & Willy are fixing Erik’s car — by way of melting down the platinum and molding it into a replacement grille and headlights for the car! They return it just in time for Erik to see his wife and her gigolo driving away with his ill-booten gotty, so he can drive off in pursuit of them. Jim gets across the border because his trunk is empty save for a deflated balloon whose resemblance to platinum bars goes unnoticed by the border guard, but Barney arranges to be driving a van that crunches Erik’s grille for the second time today, so that when the guards inspect it, they discover it’s platinum and arrest him for smuggling.
This episode is full of holes. Aside from the question of why the authorities couldn’t just arrest these guys, or publicize their scam so people wouldn’t be taken in, there’s the question of why this convoluted plan would work. Okay, they can arrest the guy for having platinum on his car, but what about the subsequent investigation? There’s no way to prove he knowingly turned his car grille into platinum, since he didn’t, and a warrant for his house will turn up nothing now.
And the Hagars are very unimpressive antagonists. They’re not hardened killers, not physically dangerous at all (so the whole “If any of your IM Force are caught or killed” line is rather incongruous). They don’t have some vast organization or Soviet-bloc government protecting them. They’re just a couple of con artists working alone, and barely functioning as a team at all, since they clearly hate each other and are easy to turn against each other. And they’re really quite gullible and easily manipulated. I kind of feel sorry for them, going up against a crack spy team that’s overthrown governments and saved the world from weapons of mass destruction time and time again. The Hagars are completely out of their league. And they should’ve been beneath the IMF’s notice. The very existence of this episode doesn’t make sense.
Yesterday, I finally got up to my father’s place for the first time since Shadow passed away. Up until then, the idea of his loss had been pretty abstract for me, since I haven’t lived under the same roof with the cats for years. As I expected, it wasn’t until I went into Shadow’s favorite closet and saw he wasn’t there, until I saw his litter box emptied out and packed away, that it finally really hit me that he was gone and I was finally able to start grieving properly. I spent some time in that closet saying goodbye, and since then I’ve been letting myself be sad, letting it become real to me.
Just a bit before he died, we bought a new case of his special food from the Cat Clinic, and as it happens, Shadow left us just after he’d finished the last can from the old case. So the new case was never opened. I’ll be returning it to the clinic when I get the chance.
Looks like I’m finally going to get another paying gig, and one that will bring in enough to let me pay off my debts and get comfortably in the black again, at least for a while. I can’t say anything more about it yet; heck, I don’t even know much more myself, since it’s all still coming together.
The bad timing is twofold. One, it’s too late to help me with my immediate financial situation. I’ve got various sources of possible or definite income heading my way in the months ahead — some savings become available next month, I applied for a census job that will start next month if I get it, I’ve got checks coming for “No Dominion” and the story I sold yesterday, I’ve got this new gig coming, and I’ve got several other job applications and short stories in play — but at the moment, I’ve got just barely enough to make it until then. It’s frustrating knowing that I will be out of the hole soon but still having to pinch pennies and put off buying things I need (and things I don’t) for a while longer. (While we’re on the subject, I’ve still got plenty of autographed books for sale if anyone’s interested…)
The other bad timing is all this good news coming right after Shadow passed away. I mean, yeah, it helps to be cheered up after a loss like that, but not so soon, not before I’ve really had time to process it and honor his memory. The happy and sad are getting all jumbled together and watering each other down. Like I said before, it doesn’t really let me do justice to either feeling.
The day we brought Shadow and Tasha home, before Shadow had his name, Tasha immediately hid behind the loveseat and didn’t want to come out, but Shadow was braver. The 6-week-old grey kitten just settled down on my lap and went to sleep, and would’ve been content to stay there all day, it seemed. That was a great way to start things off. However, after his car accident, he became more reserved and didn’t sit on my lap anymore. He didn’t like to be paid attention to except on his terms, where and when he wanted it. He’d run away from my attempts to pet him unless they were in his preferred places, generally either the dining room window or the top of the cat tree.
Someone in a tree, and Tasha
I think maybe it’s because when he was healing from his broken leg, his cage was on the living room floor (in the house we lived in before the one in the above photo), and from time to time we’d take him out of the cage and put him in the front windowsill and pay attention to him up there. So maybe he came to associate high-up places with affection and the floor with being confined and lonely. Then again, maybe he just wanted to be bossy and control when and where he interacted with people.
And he wasn’t shy about demanding attention. My father liked to quote Willy Loman in reference to Shadow’s insistence: “Attention must be paid!” It was paradoxical, the way he’d meow sharply at you (or quack — seriously, over the years his meow evolved into a definite quack, though according to my father, in his last years it had become “Mkngaow”) for attention and then run away when you offered it — at least until he led you to one of his places. And then he’d let you pet him for a little while, and at an arbitrary time of his choosing, would start to claw and bite. Not with genuine aggression, more or less playfully, but he played rough. (Oh, so many of my memories of Shadow involve impromptu acupuncture….)
Later in life, starting a few years ago, he began taking less care of his claws, giving up on using his scratching posts/pads and letting his claws grow out to the point that they dug into the pads of his feet. I was living on my own by that point, and there was no way my father could manage to trim the recalcitrant Shadow’s claws by himself. We tried to remember to take him into the vet for trimming when his walk started to sound like he was wearing tap shoes, but sometimes we let it go too long and by the time we took him in, his feet were pretty sore. Once we took him and Tasha to a local vet — not the usual cat-specialty clinic we took them to across town — to get their claws trimmed. Tasha’s were easy, but Shadow’s were really ingrown and painful and it was very hard for him, even though the vets tried to be as gentle as they could. But it was a striking experience. The vets wrapped him in a heavy towel to try to calm him down, and the sounds that came out of that bundle, these unearthly caterwauls and snarls and growls, were unlike anything I’ve heard before and really rather unnerving. Beautiful in a way, but scary.
And when the vets tried to shift the towel around to get to another paw, suddenly there was this savage hiss and this set of claws bursting out and slashing at them with lightning speed, and everyone jumped back in fear. Seriously, it was like the chestburster scene in Alien. Shadow was really, really scary that day. Of course I feel sorry for him that he was in such discomfort, and guilty that we didn’t get his claws trimmed much sooner, but I look back with great fondness on what a genuinely fearsome and awe-inspiring beastie Shadow could be.
It wasn’t so charming an experience for my father, though. After we let Shadow go back in the carrier with Tasha, I suggested that, given how agitated and angry Shadow was, it would probably be safer for Tasha to go home in a separate carrier. So my father made the mistake of reaching in to retrieve Shadow again, and got his hand bitten for his trouble. Luckily Shadow had been an indoors cat for a long time, so there was no risk of rabies.
But of course my father and I didn’t hold it against Shadow. He was certainly justifiably provoked. And it was just his nature. Cats choose to live with us for mutual benefit, but they are by no means tame. That’s why it means so much when they choose to offer us affection and companionship.