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This Week's Haul

Late once again. Then again, it was a tiny week, with three penultimate chapters coming out. Plus I hear Gray, Palmiotti and Conner will be leaving Power Girl after #12.

  • Green Lantern #51, by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Rebecca Buchman & Keith Champagne (DC)
  • Power Girl #10, by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner (DC)
  • Victorian Undead #5 of 6, by Ian Edginton & Davide Fabbri (DC/Wildstorm)
  • The Marvels Project #7 of 8, by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting (Marvel)
Blackest Night is about to finish up, and this week’s Green Lantern brings us to the edge. I gotta say that despite not being a very compelling story, mechanically Johns and company have done a good job of telling the event across three books: Green Lantern followed Hal Jordan putting together the new “rainbow guardians”, Green Lantern Corps showed the Corps trying to deal with the universe-wide zombie outbreak, and Blackest Night showed Earth’s heroes fighting zombies, as the villains gradually revealed themselves and their plan. You could almost read just a single comic and follow what’s happening, which is unusual in a braided story like this.

The story’s developed into one about death vs. life, which an attempt to show that the villain Nekron’s point of view, trying to wipe out all life to return the universe to its peaceful state before life developed. Meanwhile, longtime GL villain Sinestro has been imbued with the power of the white avatar of life, which has been hiding inside the Earth for billions of years, which explains why Earth is a focal point for attention from aliens and why it’s developed so many super-heroes.

The larger story has been pretty ho-hum so far (zombies, more zombies, and the cosmic balance at stake), and the assembling of the rainbow guardians has been downright silly (I guess Hal’s going to try to keep them together after the series ends, which seems even sillier). The best bits have been certain characters either exorcising their demons (John Stewart has some unfortunate events in his past which he’s been working through here) or seeking redemption (Sinestro, who of course we can’t entirely trust with his new-found powers). Overall it has been the most readable of DC’s event series of recent years, but it has been rather overblown compared to what the story ended up being.

It wraps up tomorrow.

New Biking Year

It took me almost two weeks after daylight savings time started, but I got back on the bike today and rode to and from work. It was about as hard as I expected, but not too bad. My legs were definitely wobbly during the morning, and around 3:30 my body decided it was naptime. Once I got home I was quite hungry, and afterwards I felt pretty well zonked. I’ll sleep well tonight!

Amusing little aside: On my ride in I often stop off at some friends’ house. Usually I just stop in front, have some water, and push on, though sometimes I see one of them and say hi. This morning I turned into their neighborhood behind a car that looked just like theirs – not too surprising since they have a common make, model and color. But it turned onto a different street. When I got to their house, their garage was open, and I noticed that their license plate was exactly the same as the other car’s to the fifth digit (of seven). What are the odds?

I’ve got a busy couple of weeks lined up, with lots to do at work and at least at much to get through at home. So updates may be sparse. March and early April always seem to be this way, for some reason.

Sympathy Card

My vet sent me a lovely card in sympathy with Jefferson’s passing. It was really touching; she wrote that “he was an amazing boy who obviously was dearly loved”, and that she thinks I did the right thing even though it was difficult to do. The whole experience has made me really glad she’s my vet. If you’re in the area and looking for a vet, I go to the Mid Peninsula Animal Hospital.

It’s getting easier, but I still miss him of course. It’s becoming clear that he was the glue who held all the cats together. The other three don’t eat together very much anymore, for example. I’m still holding out hope that Roulette will manage to win over Newton as a sleeping buddy, though.

This Week's Haul

I decided to drop The Incredible Hercules this week. At first it seemed like an entertaining buddy comic (albeit with decidedly unusual buddies), but it went badly wrong somewhere, too subservient to cheesy (but not actually funny) humor and pludding through its dreadfully tedious “New Olympus” storyline. The series seems to be coming to a close with a Hercules: Fall of an Avenger 2-parter, and I thumbed through it and thought the artwork was just dreadful, so that was the last nail in the coffin. (Chris Sims loves this series, but he loves a lot of stuff that doesn’t work for me. Oh, well; diff’rent strokes and all that.)

Fortunately we can still go back and enjoy Bob Layton’s two great mini series from the 80s.

  • American Vampire #1, by Scott Snyder, Stephen King & Rafael Albuquerque (DC/Vertigo)
  • The Brave and the Bold #32, by J. Michael Straczynski & Jesus Saiz (DC)
  • Booster Gold #30, by Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund & Jerry Ordway (DC)
  • Fables #93, by Bill Willingham & David Lapham (DC/Vertigo)
  • Green Lantern Corps #46, by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Keith Champagne & Tom Nguyen (DC)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #24, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wes Craig & Serge LaPointe (Marvel)
  • Nova #35, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Mahmud A. Asrar & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
  • Echo #20, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
  • Chip #1 of 2, by Richard Moore (Antarctic)
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Research vol 2 HC, by Tom Siddell (Archaia)
  • Irredeemable #12, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Boom)
  • Ghost Projekt #1 of 5, by Joe Harris & Steve Rolston (Oni)
With dropping Hercules this week, I decided to try something new, the new Vertigo series American Vampire, especially since my local store ordered dozens of them. While the series was created by Scott Snyder (whose work I don’t think I’ve read before), presumably the hoopla is because the second story is written by Stephen King. The whole package is illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, who I’m also not familiar with.

The double-sized first issue is… merely okay. The first story features Pearl, a young woman in 1925 Hollywood working multiple jobs trying for a big break, and who gets invited to a party thrown by a famous movie producer, featuring a cliffhanger ending. The second story the arrest and transportation by rail of Skinner Sweet, a notorious robber in the old west of 1880 who stages a daring escape but ends up taking on more than he’d bargained for. From what I’ve read, both of these characters will be the vampires of the series, following their escapades throughout the landscape of 20th century America as figures grounded in their particular eras.

The stories are decent but not especially impressive, and Albuquerque’s art is pretty good although he makes extensive use of heavy lines in the inking, with a style apparently influenced by Howard Chaykin, making everything look a little too staged and not quite dynamic enough.

Overall it’s a decent package as a fairly typical vampire yarn – which seems like exactly what it’s trying not to be, unfortunately. Admittedly I am not much of a fan of horror, and have a limited interest in suspense-for-the-sake-of-suspense. (I was disappointed, for example, that Joe Hill’s Locke & Key ended up being more suspense and horror and mystery and discovery.) So arguably I’m just not part of American Vampire‘s target audience. I’ll stick around for a few issues and see if there’s more to it than meets the eye. On the other hand, if vampires and horror are exactly your thing, then this one seems pretty well crafted and worth a look.

I believe this month’s Booster Gold is Dan Jurgen’s swan song on his second turn with the character he broke into DC with. The series’ sales have fallen since Geoff Johns – who launched the current series – left, but really the quality has been about the same all along, although Jurgens is certainly a quirkier writer than Johns. The biggest disappointment is that Jurgens didn’t have a concrete storyline he was working with on his run, so it read like one little adventure (or misadventure) after another, without much tying them together. Fun, but lightweight.

On the other hand, this issue ends with a nice revelation about Booster’s future, not so much dropping hints as to what’s to come as jumping straight to the end to show us that everything will, eventually, turn out all right, even though we have no idea what challenges will have to be surmounted to get there. In its way it’s just as touching as Johns’ last issue when he gave Booster and his sister a happy ending (for the moment).

Keith Giffen is apparently taking over the writing chores, so anything could happen, as Giffen’s books range from outstanding to annoying. I’ll keep reading for a while, but I think the key will be for Giffen to stay true to the character and tone of the series that’s been set; too radical a change would just wreck what’s fun about the book.

I’ve written about the great webcomics Gunnerkrigg Court before (here and here), and I’m sure I will again. After the long delay for the first book, it’s great that Archaia has been able to come out with the second collection a little over a year later. The strip is as good today as when it started – maybe better, since creator Tom Siddell’s art is certainly much better – and he continues to inject a sense of wonder into nearly every story, as well as spooky, mysterious and sometimes outright baffling bits, and a nifty braiding of science and magic. Greg Burgas has a comprehensive review, and he likes it a lot, too.

This volume has several excellent chapters: “Red Returns” features a pair of faeries becoming students at the Court after having transitioned to being human. Antimony and Kat befriend Red and try to cheer her up, but it turns out that faeries’ means of happiness and emotional connection are nothing like what they’re used to. “S1” features the return of Robot, whom Antimony created in the first chapter of the series to take her second shadow back to Gillitie Wood, and starts to shed some light on the history of the Court which will become part of our heroines’ adventures in later chapters. “Power Station” goes back to the strange girls Zimmy and Gamma – whose nature still isn’t really clear to me – and obliquely looks at Zimmy’s nature some more, through what appears to be a flashforward (or maybe a dream sequence). Even in the bits I don’t really understand, Siddell’s storytelling is still strong and moving, so I’m inclined to think he’s either being obscure for effect, or because the mysteries will be revealed in time.

Highly recommended; Gunnerkrigg Court is one of the best webcomics out there.

What is it about secret Soviet research projects and horror comics? Must be the stark architecture and hard-assed characters who always seem to make it into such stories. And Joe Harris & Steve Rolston use it to good effect in the first issue of their series Ghost Projekt, which I only heard about because of Greg Burgas’ review. But it’s great stuff, off to a rousing start when two criminals break into an old research facility and end up infected with… something. Then a pair of Americans show up to investigate and clean up the site, before a Russian operative arrives to tell them it’s under their jurisdiction.

Even if the story plays out in a predictable manner – the Americans refuse to be told off and investigate on their own, the Russians end up with problems greater than they’d dreamed, and the criminals end up as the spearhead of something really nasty getting out – it could still be a fun series. If there are a few curveballs in there, then it could be downright terrific.

Okay, Ghost Projekt is nominally a suspense/horror comic like American Vampire is, but I liked it much more. Why? Well, the setting is more interesting, and there’s a lot more mystery and intrigue here than in AV. I don’t mind suspense and horror, but I’m not so much into stories whose raison d’etre is suspense and horror. They’re a storytelling mechanism, but not the reason I show up. In fact, Ghost Projekt has more in common with Gunnerkrigg Court with a cat who knowingly follows the characters around, and the air of mystery surrounding fundamentally likable characters. GK is a more playful comic, but Ghost Projekt has that hook of curiosity, too.

In any event, the first issue left me pretty enthusiastic; check it out.

This Week's Haul

Between the death of my beloved cat Jefferson last week, and before that a weeklong visit by my girlfriend’s family, I haven’t had much time for comics reviews. But I’ll get down a few comments on titles from the past week.

By-the-by, if you’re an insane fan of Planetary, as I am, the final 9 issues were collected in hardcover two weeks ago. The regular hardcovers are a really nice package, easily the equal of the large-and-unwieldy Absolute editions, and since John Cassaday’s skills lie primarily in his designs and not his detail work, the art doesn’t significantly benefit from the larger size of the Absolute version (not the way, say, George Pérez’s does).

Two Weeks Back:

  • Astro City: The Dark Age Book Four #2, by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson & Alex Ross (DC/Wildstorm)
  • First Wave #1 of 6, by Brian Azzarello & Rags Morales (DC)
  • Planetary: Spacetime Archaeology vol 4 HC, by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Age of Reptiles: The Journey #3 of 4, by Ricardo Delgado (Dark Horse)
  • The Boys #40, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)

Last Week:

  • Batman and Robin #10, by Grant Morrison, Andy Clarke & Scott Hanna (DC)
  • Ex Machina #48, by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Secret Six #19, by Gail Simone & Jim Calafiore (DC)
  • The Unwritten #11, by Mike Carey, Peter Gross & Jimmy Broxton (DC/Vertigo)
  • Criminal: The Sinners #5 of 5, by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Marvel/Icon)
  • Powers #3, by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming (Marvel/Icon)
  • B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #3 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
  • Chew #9, by John Layman & Rob Guillory (Image)
Brian Azzarello’s First Wave is a mash-up of a number of 30s and 40s heroes, from Batman and Doc Savage to The Spirit and Rima the Jungle Girl. It takes place outside regular DC continuity, and it’s unclear whether it takes place in the 30s or in the present day; designs and fashions seem to evoke a little of both, but without a clear emphasis in either direction. One wonders whether Azzarello is making a subtle comment about how fundamentally the world hasn’t changed all that much in the last 80 years.

This first issue focuses on the Spirit investigating a smuggling operation, Doc Savage returning to New York after missing his father’s funeral, and Rima rescuing a man who was captured by savages and a giant robot. It’s just the hint of where the 6-issue series is going, so it’s way too soon to tell if it’s any good. But despite the artwork by the always-fantastic Rags Morales (who always seems to get stuck doing not-as-good-as-they-ought-to-be miniseries), First Wave doesn’t start off as particularly intriguing or stylized, indeed it feels a little generic, and definitely way too self-conscious in its handling of Will Eisner’s Spirit, a character who was unique in a way that defined his becoming an icon (the anti-Doc Savage, in a way), yet Azzarello seems to want to put the icon stamp on him here.

Given the breadth of material Azzarello is working with, though, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt after just one issue. But he’s got some work ahead of him.

(Incidentally, there will be both Spirit and Doc Savage spin-off series coming out in the next couple of months – yes, before the miniseries finishes – but I don’t plan to sign on for either of them.)

The latest Batman & Robin is so silly I almost like it. Robin has been programmed by his mother (leader of the League of Assassins) to take out Batman. Meanwhile, fresh from learning that the Bruce Wayne they tried to resurrect last story isn’t the real thing, they start looking for clues as to where Bruce has gone, and they conclude that he was thrown into the past and has been leaving hints in Wayne Manor to that effect, which leads Batman to a secret Batcave.

Little of this makes a lick of sense, of course: Why wouldn’t Bruce Wayne or Dick Grayson have noticed these hints in the last few decades? Morrison’s suggestion that they hadn’t been looking is of course absurd. Okay, Bruce may have noticed and realized that he would just have to deal with the issue when it arose, but you’d think he’d have confided in Dick at some point, advising him of the quest yet to come to the extent that he could. The set-up seems intended to evoke some of the sillier time travel stories of the 50s (like the “secret origin of the Batcave” one), and it’s a cute little conceit, but it’s also just outright silly.

Very nice art by Andy Clarke, but Morrison just doesn’t seem able to achieve a consistent level of quality in this series. Parts work, parts are so ludicrous that they clash badly with the realistic elements. Little of it feels much like Batman stories, and of course Morrison seems completely lost when it comes to characterization, which is a crying shame since the set-up was perfect for a great character drama.

Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal, like their other work, bring pulp sensibilities to the table like First Wave does, but unlike the DC series, these guys put their own indelible stamp on everything they do, with Brubaker’s hard boiled writing and Phillips’ heavily shadowed figures. They do some of the most engaging comics around.

The fifth Criminal story is a sequel to the second one, featuring ex-soldier Tracy Lawless, effectively indentured to a crime lord, having an affair with the boss’ wife, and charged with investigating a series of murders of underworld figures. Lawless is a bent but not yet broken man, trying to do the honorable thing without getting himself killed, and he navigates a series of threats (getting beat up more than a little in the process, because that’s the sort of series this is) to clean up loose ends and settle some scores before meeting his own fate. Yet, I bet we’ll be seeing Tracy again in a future series. As always, though, if you like this kind of stuff, you can’t go wrong with Brubaker and Phillips’ take on it.

Remnants

When we put Jefferson to sleep, Debbi started crying, and she said, “I was trying to be strong for you.”

In fact, I’ve rarely seen Debbi cry during our relationship, and for the most part this week when she’s gotten weepy it’s been because I started first. But two times I have seen her cry have been back in 2005 when Roulette escaped from the car when she drove up for their weekend visit (and we spent two twilight hours hunting for her), and today when she deleted Jefferson from our Wii Fit, since seeing his avatar sitting there every time we seemed just cruel to us.

I really hate to see Debbi cry. I rarely think about the day Roulette escaped because she was so terribly upset, and I never want to see her that way again.

I think we’re going to be putting away remnants of Jeff’s life here for weeks to come, and each piece will be hard.

It’s especially hard to think that I’m going to live for decades more with only memories and photos of him.

Coping

It’s been hard, as you might guess. I realized that this is really the first time I’ve had someone this close to me die. I’ve never had a friend or a immediate family member die, and the pets I grew up with passed away after I’d moved out (and while I appreciated and remember my grandparents, I’m not sure I’d say I was close to them). But now I understand why friends who have had pets die in recent years have been so broken up by it. I guess you can’t really understand until it happens to you.

Yesterday morning I was sitting on the bed crying a little, and Blackjack came in and looked up at me, jumped up on the bed and nuzzled me, and then sat down next to me. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but he seems to be reacting to our emotions more than Newton or Roulette. Although I think Roulette has been looking around for her sleeping buddy from time to time. Today she got into the cat window and sniffed every corner of it before lying down in the cat bed; it must still smell like Jefferson.

The things that make me smile are seeing our cats doing their normal things. I think it reassures me that they’re okay, especially Newton who, after all, is Jefferson’s brother. Debbi bought some new food dishes (they used to eat out of two 2-sided dishes, and we decided it would be uncomfortable to use those and not fill one of the bowls each day) and they’ve all been eating. Newton’s still taking his pill every morning. He jumps up on my bathroom counter and licks the water after I finish shaving, and all three cats have come in to check out my shower after I get out of it. We’re getting full-on sun today, and they’ve all been lying in the sunbeam in the front room. I was able to get both Newton and Roulette to play last night. I cleaned the porch today and let them out on it; Blackjack rolled around on his back in happiness, and both he and Newton (the dummies) chewed on the surviving snapdragon.

There’s still a big hole in the house, though. In some ways Jefferson was the glue that held the other three cats together, and I think they’re figuring out their new dynamics. Jefferson was top cat, and I expect Blackjack will become top cat now, but he’s a lot more rambunctious than Jeff, so that will be different. Roulette I think wants to start cuddling up to Newton, so we’ll see whether that happens.

We’re going to try not to spend too much time at home this weekend, as it could be a bit morbid. I don’t want to leave the cats alone all the time, either, but then, midday is their prime nap time, and there are all these great sunbeams around.

It’s a bit of emotional thrashing around. We’ll get through it, but it’s going to take some time.

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of me and my cats from 2003 (before we got the kittens, I believe), which I think sums up our relationships fairly well:

The Morning After

I slept well last night, so that’s something. Newton and Roulette both came in to join us for bed last night. I’m not sure if they were confused by Jefferson’s absence, or if they were reacting to our emotions. Or both. I gave Newton a lot of extra attention last night, which he loved, of course, purring up a storm and rolling onto his back and kneading me. (I need to clip his claws.) Debbi is worried that Roulette will get depressed, since she loved Jefferson so much. Blackjack has gone around meowing a little, but he does that anyway, and I’m not sure if it means anything. He often seems to live in his own little world.

Blackjack and Newton were both snoozing with me when I woke up this morning. I played with Blackjack a little (let him rabbit-kick my foot), and then he jumped down. Newton got his usual attention, and then stood up and looked toward the door. I told him (not knowing what he was thinking, of course) that Jefferson wasn’t going to come in to join us this morning. Jeff would often jump up with Newton, and give him some licking while they were both standing on me.

Usually Jefferson comes in to the dining room while I’m reading the paper and meows to get up on my lap, and I put him off until I get to the funnies (which I read last). Blackjack has been joining me for the paper recently – he’s become a lie-on-the-paper kitty – so he came over for a little while and then went to his cat bed in the window. But, no more morning snuggles and purrs with Jeff at breakfast.

Roulette burrowed under the blanked on the futon in the front bedroom as she always does, coming down once to have some breakfast. Newton lay for a while in his usual spot on the bed, and just before I left he’d moved to the front room to lie in the sunlight.

I’ve been wondering if Jefferson’s last few weeks were what he’d have wanted. I know he got some playing in with the laser pointer and cat catcher in the last few months. He’s had some treats. He got some petting. He loved potato chips – he’d come running across the house when I opened a bag of them – but he hadn’t had any in a while. I gave him plenty of chin skritches in his last minutes yesterday. Unfortunately his last week was spent dealing with out crowded house as Debbi’s family and some other friends were visiting, and none of the cats enjoy large crowds. Monday night I went to Magic and Tuesday night I had frisbee, so I feel like I didn’t really get to see him in his last few days. That makes me really sad.

But I know that he had a really good life, even if the last few days weren’t the best they could have been if I’d known what was coming.

I cried a little after I got in to work this morning. I may be working with my office door closed off and on today and tomorrow.

I sent mail to my ex-girlfriend Colleen, who was Jefferson’s first “mom”, since I haven’t seen her on Facebook recently.

If you’re curious, I have some pictures of Jefferson (and the other cats) from the last 4 years visible via this tag.

Remembering Jefferson: 1994-2010

This morning I noticed Jefferson was not eating – not even a treat – and was being very lethargic. He’d lost a lot of weight over the last 8 months, and he looked even more gaunt than he has recently. I took him into the vet, and by noon she called with the bad news: Jeff had had what she called an “acute renal incident” and whatever measurements they used on his kidneys were “crazy high”.

I spent most of the day agonizing over what to do: To have him hospitalized for 2-3 days getting hydrated and perhaps getting close to normal, and then facing daily subcutaneous fluid injections and other treatments for perhaps a few months to two years of life, or deciding that, as the vet put it, he’d had a good 16 years. By late afternoon, I decided to do the latter. The vet said she thought it was a reasonable decision, that his measurements were not good and it was no guarantee that he’d get back to normal.

Debbi and I met at the vet and said goodbye. Jefferson was snuggly and cuddly, and just before the doctor came in he wanted to get put down on the towel on the exam room table, where he lay down. The doctor gave him a sedative (he didn’t close his eyes, she said they never do), and then she put him to sleep for good. It was very quiet. he even had one lip curled up like he did sometimes.

I didn’t take a final picture of him lying there, and I decided not to keep his ashes. That’s not the sort of person I am. He’ll go to kitty heaven along with several other kitties, and I’ll have my memories and my photos of him.

I got Jefferson and his brother Newton (well, I was told they were brothers) from the humane society in October of 1994, when they were 6 months old. I’d left graduate school in May, started working at Epic in June, and moved to my first solo apartment in August. I’d been going to the Humane Society twice a week for several weeks looking for just the right kittens. It was awfully hard, not adopting the other kittens or cats. I remember in particular two 11-month old orange tabby brothers who were there for week after week; I hope they got adopted. Jefferson and Newton showed up one day and I immediately put in to interview them. I was told that someone else had put in to interview Newton, but when my appointment came later that week it turned out they’d decided not to take him. The two of them were full of energy, jumping all over me and my then-girlfriend Colleen, and I quickly decided they were the guys for me.

The Humane Society screwed up and didn’t neuter them on the day they were supported to be neutered, so I had them home just for a weekend before I had to take them in again, and leave them overnight. That was hard, too. But then they were home for good, little bundles of energy running around my apartment.

It took me a month to name them. They totally stressed me out getting into things, and just being the “little brown guy” and the “little orange guy”. Newton named himself by always falling off my lap while rolling around getting petted. Jefferson’s name just came to me as one that matched Newton, when I decided I had to give him a name, to make him feel more like a member of my home. But it fit.

Newton was the bold one, but Jefferson was the smart one. I’m sure he figured out how to open my front door – if only he could reach the handle. I let them both into the building’s hallway, where they’d go down the hall and intimidate my friend Jim’s cats, walking right into his apartment if we let them.

Those early years, the brothers were inseparable. They’d snooze together and play together, habits they grew out of in their later years. Early on Jefferson would climb into bed with me and curl up alongside my torso; over time he’d move to the foot of the bed (probably because of the extra-comfy blanket I draped down there at the time) and lounge over my foot.

When I moved to California, the cats flew in the cargo hold. When they came out the other end, Newton was hiding at the back of this cage, while Jefferson was loafed up front and center, with a look that said, “I am never going to forgive you for this, you realize that, right?” Both cats (predictably) never liked moving to a new home; they’d slink around the place on their bellies, and then hide somewhere until nightfall, at which point they’d come out and check everything out. They got it all figured out pretty quickly, though.

One day I came home from work and pulled up to my car port, thinking, “Hey, that orange cat sitting at the foot of the stairs to my floor looks just like Newton!” In fact, it was Newton – at some point during the day they’d pushed the screen out of a window over the kitchen sink and gotten outside. Who knows how long they were out there, and it’s lucky they weren’t killed. Jefferson ran back inside as soon as I went upstairs, but I had go down down to entice Newton back.

When Debbi got her kittens, she brought them down every weekend. Blackjack had delusions of being top cat, but Jefferson was having none of it, and quickly taught the kittens their places. Despite this, Roulette loved Jefferson, and the two of them became fast friends, mostly curling up in the papasan together every evening. Jefferson always seemed just a little put out, but sometimes he’d give in and lick Roulette’s head.

I think the coming of the kittens spelled the end of Jefferson and Newton’s close relationship, though. They rarely slept together anymore, and Newton would sometimes play dominance games by holding Jefferson by biting the scruff of his neck.

Most of all, though, Jefferson was my cat – no one else would do. I’d come home and he’d jump down from the bookcase upstairs and come running down to greet me, and then follow me around meowing at me until I picked him up. Other people were not sufficient, and he’d only grudgingly give them attention. He was always quick to purr his deep purr (it took Newton quite a while to find both his purr and his meow). When I was on the phone, Jefferson would jump into my lap, or meow at me if I wasn’t sitting down, no matter where we’d each been when the phone rang. Debbi often said that Jefferson wanted everyone else to just go away, so it would be just him and me.

This morning Newton was meowing his head off around 3:15 in the morning. In retrospect I wonder if he knew something wasn’t right.

On his last day Jefferson came in to greet me when my alarm went off. He came down for breakfast, but didn’t eat. He went up to lie in the sunbeam for several hours, and later I found him sitting in the green cat couch in the hallway – a couch he’d claimed as his some time ago – and finally in the cubbyhole of the cat tree. He meowed all the way to the vet. He’d gotten down to 8 pounds – literally half the cat he once was.

After we said goodbye, I went to buy comic books (I listened to podcasts of Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me! on the way, which helped take my mind off it by making me laugh), and Debbi put away our two-sided feeding dish and found a round ceramic one for Newton. The other three cats seem a little bewildered, but I don’t think they know why. Oddly, Blackjack is the one who’s been walking around yowling.

Jefferson would have been 16 years old next month. That’s a pretty good run for a cat. I’ve known for a while that cats at that age can go very quickly. Maybe we could have gotten a few more good months with him, but maybe they wouldn’t have been good months. It will take me a little while not to think about that.

Goodbye, Jeff, my little brown guy. I honestly could not have asked for a better cat. I love you and I’ll always miss you.

Adjusting to my New Environment

This is the end of my first week in our new building at work (well, almost; I was out yesterday to go with Debbi and her parents to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see their sea otter pup, who is awfully cute and energetic, by the way), and it’s been a lot of little adjustments:

  • As predicted, walking to Infinite Loop to have lunch in the cafeteria has not been a big deal. I leave a few minutes earlier than I used to, and end up finishing lunch quite a bit earlier. Recruiting people to go to lunch with me has been trickier, though: More people have been bringing their lunches or going out for lunch. I see the cafeteria (which is really quite good) as a middle ground between the two. Plus, I get more exercise walking to and from, and I’ve convinced people to take the slightly longer walk back twice so far.
  • Gathering folks for afternoon coffee has been tougher, though. We have a coffee bar in our building, but very little seating, whereas Infinite Loop had the cavernous atrium with large, comfortable couches and many tables besides. Once it warms up and dries out we can have coffee outside, where there is more seating, but this week we tried it in a conference room, which made cow-orker K say she felt like we needed to bring an agenda for coffee, and wasn’t very satisfying. So I’m not sure what the solution will be here. I bet what will ultimately happen is “afternoon coffee less often”.
  • Being in a building with fewer people definitely feels a little disconnected from the rest of the company. I’m also in an office which gets less foot traffic, so it’s more up to me to go chat with people. But I think I’m up to the task. 🙂
  • Still haven’t quite figured out the best route to drive to the building from the freeway – I think I need to come in the back way to avoid the main traffic light (where I used to turn left to go to my old building). At least we have plenty of parking – until the upstairs gets populated, anyway.
  • My office is right next to the bathroom, which is nice, but a long hike from the printer, which is a tad annoying. I’d rather be close to the bathroom, though!

Differences I haven’t taken advantage of yet include being closer to the fitness center, and on the other side of the major road separating us from Infinite Loop, both of which will be convenient when I start biking to work again. And also being a little closer to some stores and restaurants where we could go for lunch. (I hope to get folks to go to Armadillo Willy’s once a month or so.)

Also, it rained like crazy on Wednesday but I didn’t hear it at all through my office’s floor-to-ceiling windows – talk about soundproofing! On the other hand, I can easily hear the truck that just drove by. You can’t have everything.

So the downsides of the move have been little stuff. The upside – in the long run – will be some groups who have been off in yet another building for the last year – which include some of my better friends in the department – moving into our new building too. That’s what I’m really looking forward to, and that will make the move ultimately worthwhile, I think.