Monthly Archives: July 2012

Dated “Dating”


I read about some priest who went to do some missionary work in India and when he stepped off the plane and got sight and smell of the unwashed masses his first reaction was to turn around and leave. His calling was strong enough that he didn’t, though; he stayed, and for quite a while, it seems: the rest of his life.

That sounds incredibly anecdotal but one wonders, (as one is wont to do) how it is that all those unwashed masses were at the airport when the priest landed, or maybe that was just a contraction of the time between landing and the seeing/smelling, still it seems a little contrived. Not that, to a cultured nose, the personal hygiene of another culture can’t strike one as, well, un-cultured.

Still, it made me think. Can you imagine what primitive people must have smelled like? No soap to wash with, no perfumes even to mask odors, no toothpaste or mouthwash (‘no toilet paper, even,’ he said in a whisper), no hair gel? Can you imagine? (“Hey, can you do my back for me?”)

I watched a program on the Discovery channel about the real oldest humanoid identified so far, who lived over three million years ago. They named her “Ardi,” and she’s even older than “Lucy.” They reconstructed the critter, and in that way they do now they mounted several scenes of life as it might have been among those people.

In one part of the drama, Ardi and a male from her clan mated. Some time after mating, which they didn’t actually show (drat), Ardi went off to be by herself in order to give birth (she climbed a tree to do so in fact! probably for safety reasons.) After she delivered she came down and her mate went over to her and was in awe of the little critter she was holding to her breast. He reached out, gently, as if to caress or even just to touch this marvel, and mommy kind of pulled back a little — it was just a protective move — but she relented and daddy had a chance to touch his offspring. Then they went their separate ways, although they were still part of the same clan.

Which kind of brings me back to my original thought about the smell of humans then. Animals often mate as a result of smells given off; present-day humans have scents associated with sexual arousal. I’m trying to imagine how, with no after-shave, no “Tabu” or “Canoe” — remember that? — their mating might have been affected. Or was it always just the anecdotal club to the head and “Let’s have some fun! But I probably will not call you in the morning.”

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Or “Möths” if you are feeling your inner Inspector Clouseau.We’ve had a small but persistent infestation of carpet moths. Annoying, little things, although it did bring to mind “The Seven Year Itch,” so I watched that again.The night before last I kind of partially rumbled into a waking state, having heard what vaguely sounded like a cat rummaging on the way-too-cluttered desk behind the bed. My own curiosity wasn’t enough to make me get up, so I rolled over and squeezed my eyes back into sleep. In the morning, which might have been anywhere between two minutes and five hours later, I woke up and swung my legs over the bed to stand up, only to find a fuzzy critter crouched there. Even in the still-dark, I knew it was the cat. I didn’t step on him, but both of us would have yelp!ed, if he could have and if I had a voice at that point.

I was sure the surprise would have caused him to run away, but it didn’t: he stayed, intent and crouching, fixated towards the back of the bedroom on … something. I sat for a moment a little perplexed and then realized he was probably stalking something and the recollection of that night noise I had heard earlier came back to me. I figured it was probably a fly that got in during the night and he was chasing it. The terrace door was open and even though it was screened, the wind often blows the screen open so any fly could have gotten in.

Then again last night the same kind of noise woke me. Thinking it was odd that another fly might have gotten in, I started to wonder what exactly the fuzzy critter was after, and if it was the same thing as the night before. As it usually goes in the middle of the night, the smallness of the hour inversely magnified the intenseness of my quandary, and suddenly I was awash in goosebumps.

Was it a fly after all? Was it a different insect? A bird? A bat? A vulture? A condor?? A flying boa constrictor?? (Too many “Animal Planets” were orbiting in my head by now, and I was rapidly spiraling into despair.)

I did remember a like “incident” with Tuxedo, Ketzl’s predecessor. I had awakened that time sure that Tux had cornered a mouse or rat and was worrying it the way cats big and small do, before offing them. A similar swell of goosebumps then, and when my eyes had adjusted I realized it was just the plastic ring from the cap of a gallon water jug that I had tossed to her that day, that she liked to “chase around.”

I hoped feebly that this would be another false alarm with Ketzl. The goosebumps promised only to worsen, so I got up and threw on every light I could reach without having to step too far on the dark carpet. After a few minutes, when I realized I couldn’t find the cat or the source of his activity, what I also realized was that I had to pee. (Shivering, whether from cold or goosebumps, can make that happen.)

I padded into the dark hallway only to find my foot nearly wallop the cat, who by now was there, staring at what looked like nothing at all on the floor by the linen closet. Squinting as closely as I could to see what was there and seeing nothing, I did my bidness in the batroom and started back to bed. Drat that cat, he was in the same place and position as before, staring at — nothing?

I put on the hall light to prove to him — and myself — that he was wasting his time, and as I leaned down to tell him so, I spied the largest, most evil-looking moth I’ve ever seen (remember, it was the wee hours and I had been rudely awakened) parked motionless in the corner of the wall between the bathroom and the linen closet. I’m talking B-52. It was a half-inch from my face and it was staring defiantly at me; it was looking right at me! (I think it was growling, too.)

Damn goosebumps nearly jumped off my skin this time. (Again: it was very early; or very late, however you look at it.)

“Ketzl! He’s up here!” Nothing; dumb cat kept looking at the floor where this thing had once been. “Ketzl! Ketzl! Pssssssst!” <rap, rap=””> on the wall above the moth. “Look! Here it is!”

(? I, a man, am hoping that he, a cat, will disperse this critter ?)

Okay, okay; what’s the trick I use to get him to stretch up the wall… Oh yeah: scratch it vigorously. I do that, and finally he looks up and sees his elusive quarry, paws it and they’re off again. But he’s only playing with it. (I’m thinking it tastes bad enough that he doesn’t want to eat it, but it’s too much fun not to play with.)

A closer look as it flutters around the hall floor being pawed every so often shows that its gut has been kinda damaged (that tentative bite, perhaps, that proved it inedible?) but it’s still very active, although seemingly unable to fly any more, which is why it’s just fluttering around on the floor, accepting with resolute indignity the by-now half-hearted pawing it’s getting every so often.

Even with the damage, it looks like a behemoth momma-to-be-moth and I don’t want this thing going back into the bedroom or into the living room and engaging in parturition, so I close those doors, leaving the bathroom door open. I’m figuring it’s going to end up — soon, I hope — in the wastebasket in there anyway.

Well, the half-hearted pawing goes on for five minutes or so: cat and moth meandering into the bathroom, behind that door and out again, back into the hallway with Momma Moth trying to get under the other doors for safety and escape. She’s unable to do so, maybe because of her big belly, I don’t know. I’m beginning to lose interest; Ketzl, it seems, has already lost interest, when I suddenly realize Momma is heading under the linen closet door… Oops! A big enough gap there and she’s gone, into the closet, dear.

F*ck! Quickly I open the door, but she’s already out of sight, and the cat is clueless. Seven, maybe eight minutes I stand there trying to figure “what now” (if you had seen the condition of the stuff on that closet floor you’d understand), eventually realizing I’m going to have to take everyf*ckingthing out, find her and do her in myself, otherwise she’ll just reemerge some time later and go into labor. Or worse go into labor in the closet and with all that towelage and sheetage, her kids would have a ball feasting on my linen and grow up to be big strong moths.

Methodically, systematically I remove everything from the floor, bit by bit, placing all of it in the bathroom, and find her at last (in the last place I look, naturally: under the stupid computer monitor that’s still in there for no reason whatsoever, as it will never be used again in this household.)

I cross myself like a good Catholic (as IF) and WAP! do her in (and her unborn fetuses), may god have mercy. And may these damn FREAKIN’ goosebumps go away at last, finally, please and thank you.

Nothing goes back into the closet the way it came out, but either god or the devil was watching and I managed to get everything back in. (Yes, the stupid computer monitor is still there.)

So, tonight, fingers and toes crossed, I’ll go to sleep and hope I don’t wake up to anything similar, like the daft cat chasing after any of the deceased’s siblings (if, in fact, she had been born in the bedroom to begin with.) I’m tending to doubt it, since she was so much bigger than these silly little carpet things that show up from time to time that essentially disappear into powder if you but brush them with your hand. Somehow, though I can’t deny there is probably a connection. And I can’t help but wonder if moths can get revenge…

I will, however, be sure to turn the air conditioner on high an hour before bedtime, so that the room will be cold, really cold, cold enough that I can at least pretend that the goosebumps I’ll have are a factor of the A/C, and not of the abject fear in which I’m living now.

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I think it’s sad that so many fathers (i.e., men in general) — or at least, men from my Dad’s generation — had the need to “be hard” with people. In my own father’s case I can come close to understanding, in my own way, his general demeanor or outlook. My dad had to drop out of college and give up a career in engineering so that he could “help out” with the family business during the depression. He had to button down, warm to the task and be practical throughout his life, so that we, his family, could unbutton and be cool and have just about everything.

For someone who never finished college and who was basically a bartender most of his life, he surely did right by us. We weren’t rich, by any means, but we lived in a lovely home in a great city, drove good cars, wore good clothes and ate well (steak and beans every Saturday, the steak being grilled by Dad year-round; in the winter, he used the fireplace in the playroom for the grilling. I never found out whose idea it was to “upgrade” the “franks and beans” concept. I just enjoyed the hell out of it, without really appreciating it.)

On some level deeper than I knew back then, he loved us all and was devoted to making a good life for us. Six days a week he spent ten hours a day in that smoky, dark barroom, listening to the neighborhood drunks complain about their wives and lives. It’s no wonder he came home and promptly fell asleep after dinner, ultimately the cause of, or a contributing factor to, his early demise. In the summer, he never complained about the extra two hours added to his day because of the commute to our beach house, where the rest of us were lazing away the summer.

Did I imagine his envy of me, or was it based in fact? I was the first-born son, the Italian Prince. His sister, my godmother and her husband, (my mother’s brother, no less; my godfather) were childless, and so they brought a whole family’s-worth of devotion to me as the IP.

Still, he taught us the value of humor. We laughed a lot as a family, and he was very often a part of or the reason for it. Despite this, other than family gatherings, I remember only three times in my life when I felt really close to him:

Once, at the age of three or four, I stood behind him, he leaning forward in his armchair while watching a baseball game on TV. (Because of his proclivities toward and unfulfilled interest in things electronic, we were the first on our street to have a television set.) I stood behind him playing imaginary driver, using his back as a steering wheel and gearshift lever. I’m sure I was babbling something while I was doing this, the way kids do: talking to themselves out loud while in their imaginary worlds. I like to think that the slight and varying pressures I was placing on his back had a somewhat massaging, or even tickling, soothing effect on him.

Another time I remember: he and I were in the car, going somewhere, just the two of us. Looking back, it seems strange to me that we would be going somewhere, just the two of us, but the recollection is of me standing on the front seat on the passenger side — yep; no child-seatbelt laws or, apparently, concerns, in those days, about a kid going through the windshield — while we drove along.

The only other time was kind of golden: it was during the summer and the five of us went to a neighboring beach. For the day. Funny: what does one do to “get away” when one lives at a (then, anyway) wonderful beach, Nantasket? One drives twenty miles to a different wonderful beach, which is what we did that day as a family. Green Harbor. Dad at the beach was a rare thing in any event; having him drive us to a different beach — an adventure! — was a diamond in the sun. I remember the little refreshment stand, fashioned as a small lighthouse, where we got hot dogs and lemon-lime soda (my favorite then.) I’m sure I was allowed at least one Milky Way, too. They were actually good in those days.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror and see his ears looking back at me, or when I jot something down and see his handwriting, my chest kind of swells in pride and gratitude for all that he gave me, and I do remember, on more than one occasion, saying that I wanted to be “just like my dad; I can’t aspire to anything higher.” (No, his ears didn’t have eyeballs; mine just look like his, which is a wonderful pun if you think about it.) And I can’t help feeling sad for what he had to give up in his life, for family: first his, then ours. It almost makes up  — it should, but it keeps falling short — for his occasional denigrating comments that undermined my self-assurance. Did those comments really undermine or did they inure? It must be my own ego that causes those to resurface as often as, if not more than, the sparkling days, even though I know it was just him being hard, ultimately for my own good.

He came from good Sicilian stock. I can’t help but think they were the best people ever and that makes me the luckiest ever.


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Now that blogs are no longer fashionable I think I can allow myself the indulgence of one. I’ve always believed if I can’t set the trend, I should buck it until it’s dead, and maybe then take up its cause.

So the time for this might have come.



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