Walter the Cat

When Sam was still living in Tucson and I was able to spend about two weeks out of every month down there, Sam had decided he wanted a dog. But he couldn’t have a dog where he lived so he opted for a cat. “I want a big-ass orange cat.”

He had a penchant for “old man names” when it came time to naming anything…a Mac, an iPod, an iPhone, anything…so he had started to come up with a list of names for what he’d name the cat even before we had made a single plan to go to the “no kill” cat shelter in Tucson.

I was reluctant to do any of this, especially because his tenure in the USAF was so tentative; I just didn’t think it was the right time to consider getting a pet. But there was no dissuading him.

Anyhow, I don’t remember any of the “old man names” on that list of pet names, but I’m sure that they’d subsequently made their way onto MacBook Pros, etcs. Henry and Ralph and Edgar and the like.

We arrived at the cat shelter, a sprawling ranch house that’d been added onto—badly—several times, but Tucson weather being what it was, you could get away with such stuff. To a person, it was run by morbidly obese white women. Sam had whispered a comment about bull dykes being around all that pussy. I smacked him, but hid my own smile.

“All that pussy” was 435 cats to be exact: they kept a white board near the front door to show you an up to date tally of their “current residents”.

We walked through several rooms—a shotgun-shack-style construction: no hallways anywhere, just room connected to room connected to room—each of which had a dozen or more cats in various states of leisure and play like living knick-knacks and we were two suburban low-rent homos out flea-marketing on a weekend.

In the fourth or fifth such room, there was a Himalayan cat whose head had been shaved, a long old scar running from the top of her head, between her eyes and down the side of her neck. Her nose was very red, her eyes a mystical green. You couldn’t stop looking, but not because of her disfigurement. She actually appeared to rise above it. It was a weird cat-dignity thing.

Sam wanted to move on, though, and at first I couldn’t figure out why. Though she looked like a strung-out, morning-after drag queen, I thought the Himalayan’s comportment more than made up for whatever had been done to her by ugly, inhuman scum (the need for the surgery, not the scar from it).

Then I saw what he saw and what made him need to leave the room: there was another cat over on the floor, mostly white, whose spots were actually striped regions. A beautiful cat, intact in appearance but not in function: he was paralyzed in his rear quarters. His tail lay off to the side unnaturally and his legs were flat on the ground behind him. He was walking across the floor slowly but with cat-confidence, pulling himself along quite capably. It was too much for Sam and I wasn’t moving fast enough so he grabbed me by the hand and INSISTED.

I tried to tell him that the cat was doing just fine and that he was managing perfectly well. He’d adjusted, he’d learned to—

But I got that look from Sam that said not so much “shut the fuck up” as “I’ve unplugged your mic”. I can smile now, but I knew when When was WHEN, if you know what I mean.

We finally got to a large screened-in outdoor space with at least a hundred cats.

The biggest commotion in the room was a noisy toy that had a floppy thing with lots of rubbery tendrils at the end of a foot-long arm. At the other end of the arm was a motor in a case. The encased motor was the pivot point and as it rotated the shaft of the arm, the floppy thing, well, flopped about and circumscribed a clear area on the cement floor around which about thirty cats of all stripes (and spots and Siameses) were waiting their turn for the floppy thing to come ‘round again so they could have their swats at it.

I walked away from Sam over towards them and looked on for a bit.

Sam’s eyes were always the first thing you noticed about Sam. Brown eyes that were dark and shiny—sometimes. Or mellow and warm—sometimes. I think he was able to command them to be either. He never told.

They were almond shaped, exotic, like so many things about Sam’s personality, intelligence and creativity. Exotic. He never believed me, I don’t think, when I told him how wonderful that was; he seemed to just want to be like everyone else. From the little I’ve gotten to see of how he was with Greg, however, their togetherness alchemized his world into something that let Sam celebrate everything that was special about himself.

And how fucking great is that?

But I was talking of hundreds of cats and a milestone day. I found a cat. He was silver with a dark grey undercoat. Small, with green-yellow almond-shaped eyes. I called Sam over, who was doing nothing but trying to avoid the cats who were living with maladies or disfigurements, so he came right over. I pointed out the cat that I thought he might like, joking (though not really joking) that this cat “looks a lot like you!”

He glared at me. Lesser men would have withered and blown away. Not me though (he says, puffing out his chest).

Sam crouched down nonetheless, to get a better look. He wasn’t down for more than a few seconds when he felt two paws on his thigh. He lifted up his left arm and there he was: an orange and white cat, separate from all the other cats, standing up on his hind legs.

Looking up at Sam and making no noise at all. He even reached up with a paw and put it on Sam’s hand.

I gasped: a big-ass, if undernourished, orange cat had found his way to Sam!

Sam picked him up and held him on his back, face up, like an infant and one of the women there gasped as well. Apparently she’d never seen this particular cat permit such a thing.

Sam said to the woman, “could you tell me please about this cat?” His voice was small and quiet and measured. I’m sure if asked he would have said he didn’t want to disturb the cat, but I could hear tentativeness and fear there. Fear of breaking the spell. Fear of finding out something that would prevent him from fulfilling the wishes this cat had already Wished.

The woman replied, “Let me get Walter’s paperwork.”

Sam’s head turned and snapped to look at me. His eyes went wide and he mouthed the name “Walter!”

Walter! Old man name! Big-ass Orange Cat!

photo-33.JPGI smiled and actually teared up: I believed in things like this because I’d already been living in San Francisco for a decade. When things are right, the Universe invites you to screw up the courage and take action to make them real. Simple as that.

Walter was “about a year-and-a-half to two-years old” and “was social, except with other cats”. Fine so far, since Sam and Regina (his roommate at the time) didn’t have any other cats.

“I would like to take Walter home with me.”

It was so strange that he sounded so much like the little boy when he was saying such a mature and responsible thing. A clear, direct statement of protection, commitment and honest love.

The shelter insisted on a home visit before permitting the adoptions, to make sure it was a safe environment for the cat. Oh, Sam was all bluster for a week about “how dare they judge a Kennedy!” and such, but he did everything he possibly could at the apartment to make sure it was cat-safe (to this day I have no idea what that entailed) so that Walter, having wished for Sam, could have his wish fulfilled.

Beautiful story, right?

But the most beautiful part of it is something I have yet to recount, because it didn’t happen in Tucson. It didn’t happen on the move from Tucson to San Francisco. It didn’t even happen while Sam and I were still together and both living together with Walter.

It happened when things were perhaps nearly the worst they ever were between Sam and me, after things were over. He was moved out and we were barely speaking. He wasn’t doing well no matter how you cared to measure wellness.

But he contacted me when there was no other reason to other than to say what he’d needed to say after he’d come to a decision:

“I want you to have Walter,” he said, speaking very carefully, deliberately. “I know I owe you a lot, but he’s the only thing I have to give you.”

It was so strange that he sounded so much like the little boy when he was saying such a mature and responsible thing. A clear, direct statement of selflessness and honest lovely giving.

Walter is laying right here next to me, like he always does. He’s never been completely just mine.

And you know what? Even now, he’s still a little bit Sam’s. Always will be.


Weekly Tweets: 2010-07-25

  • Sam Storicks, Sept 10, 1979 - July 23, 2010. I loved you, Sam. I'll miss you. Everyone who knew you will. #SamStoricks #
  • #SeeThis #
  • #SeeThis #
  • @lonelysandwich Geez, now *I'm* blushing! in reply to lonelysandwich #
  • I'm not saying @lonelysandwich is gay, he's not. Just that plenty of us find him hot. Nerdy hot and just hot hot. #
  • I predict that @lonelysandwich is the next hot gay sex symbol. #flipboard #
  • What a gorgeous app: @flipboard. Just wish I could actually use it. Server overload. Nice problem to have, though #flipboard #
  • That's shocking! You use a Mac? 🙂 /// RT @gideonse: Just worked for 180 minutes with! #
  • Is THAT how he got fake-tan-spray in the corners of his mouth???? /// RT @bynkii: is there ANY GOP dick that Leiberman's not sucking? #
  • I guess metaphorical masturbation works, 2 RT @hobronto: Glenn Beck is going blind. In other news, apparently cocaine can make you go blind. #
  • RT @hobronto: RT @amboy00: Sarah Palin just downloaded Nonwords with Friends iPhone app. #
  • @danbenjamin Got one myself just last week. Using FW800 on the DroboPro because I have it hooked up to a new Mac mini Server. #
  • Dun DUN RT @hobronto: Bear Week appears to have a lot in common with Shark Week, in that it seems to involve scaring families at the beach. #
  • RT @_ado: RT @JET_AZ: The way Arizona is going, 50 years from now schoolchildren will be reading "The Diary of Anna Francisco-Hernandez". #

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Weekly Tweets: 2010-07-18

  • DailyBeast blew that one. Out of 100K+ apps, they picked THOSE? ew. /// RT @GuyKawasaki: 10 worst iPhone apps #
  • @sanguish As mainly a 3rd party developer, people always assumed that because I developed Mac (and now iPhone/iPad) software, I work 4 Apple in reply to sanguish #
  • @tewha thanks! in reply to tewha #
  • It was named by the Department of Redundancy Department RT @dschimpf: Why is it called Fisherman's Wharf? Is there a Librarian's Wharf too? #
  • microSIM is just regular sim w/inert part cut down RT @nevenmrgan: @danielpunkass I *think* you can get a converter for micro-to-normal-SIM. #
  • Congratulations, Spain. But I'm still gonna get me an oranje jersey for myself. #worldcup #
  • FUCK. 🙁 #worldcup #
  • @Jawschwacox what have I told you about the pseudoscience of applying darwinist principles to social structures? in reply to Jawschwacox #

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When It’s a Curse

I sat there in their dining room up at the top of the world.

It’s funny, you know? Now they live at the top of the world and twenty years ago they lived at the center of the universe: I’m just realizing this. I’m also dithering, playing at a dilly-dally shilly-shally.

Never be near me when I fuck with words. A mood most foul is afoot.

Fifteen years ago this was a Wednesday and he was just over my right shoulder from where I’m sitting right now and the home pump was near his feet on my side of the bed and the lighting was different and there was no desk here and Jesus Christ on a fucking cracker could I be any more maudlin and mawkish.

I am not irresolute about the past: it’s not his death I’m reliving, not less than two hours from now fifteen years ago that he’s about to die all over again, that the dull rusty saw of his muscle-toneless respiring will have ended when sleep finally came down for me for just a little while after days of nearly none. It’s not the every fifteen minutes of hitting the button on the home pump to drive another bolus of morphine into what was left of him to send him to his fate: his fate had been sealed sometime in the prior 36 hours or so.

It’s not about fifteen years ago.

It’s merely a play of thoughts, a trick of the light, a “Twinge in [The] Heart Far More Powerful Than Memory Alone”. It’s the mind serving up imagery from its own past as a coping mechanism for the present.

There’s fear here, you see. Fear in the now. Fear and shadow, and the re-minding of events is the way the brain shines a warm light on the heart, a returning of the favor for all those times when the heart was just doing its job.

That long-ago death of my long-ago love is an ache that’s deeper than hell itself. I can throw a million words down its maw and never fill it up. Notice that hasn’t stopped me from trying all these years.

But this re-minding of the events informs the tenderer parts that aches are things you can live with, even when you can’t measure them!

It makes no sense whatsoever, which is the thing you cannot bear, the thing you cannot live with. Senseless thing, death. Senseless things I’m saying: Living with something immeasurably awful!

Of course you can’t live with it and you’re inconsolable and forever has collapsed into your next breath and you don’t even care if you take another one because it’s so heavy, the air, so heavy. But somehow you do, and you resent the hell out of your own body for betraying your wishes because you’re still here and that’s a perfect impossibility if he’s not. Or she’s not. Or they’re not. Or he might not be. Or they might not be.

But yes, you do—I have—learned to live with the ache, have escaped the inescapable despair cleanly while gaining purchase and distance from it.

It comes back to me now because of a date on a calendar and the very recent death of a friend and other things so profound that the subconscious bids up what it will in order to frame the gravity and import and keep me grounded in the Now.

And there’s the beautiful irony of living with the Immeasurably Ache: there may be no way to plumb its depths, but you gauge your own distance from it in whatever terms or units are the most valuable to you at any given moment.

Am I fifteen years from it? Three heartbreaks? 100,000 gray hairs? Ten orders of magnitude in wisdom? Double in my appreciation of his sense of humor such as it was? Less abiding of fuckheads who take anonymous potshots at me? More open to new love?

There is no right answer, there are manifold. Wrong answers are only waypoints before arriving at a right answer if you know how to work them.

I miss you, Yog. I always will. I remember everything. Every last fucking thing. But there’s room for plenty more memories in this giant round Charlie Brown head of mine. That’s the magnificence of being alive.

Where’d that Curse go? Even Curses don’t like my mood when I get like this.

A Dozeneuphemisms In The Family

I am here to bury Rex Sforza, to eulogize him, to finalize his life—he can’t do it because he’s dead. Suddenly, shockingly dead.

Not to “send him on his way”, not to “lose him”, not to “wish him sleep or rest” and heaven forbid, not to tell the world he’s “gone from us”.

There are precious few topics in my life where I have precious little patience for others, where I find their speech to be the ugly blathering of ugly mouths, and death is one of those times.

Lest you, Gentle Reader, think I am merely experiencing the anger phase of grief over the death of my good friend, the wonderful man Rex Sforza, I assure you that I am “merely” nothing and my brain can be in two (or many, many more) places at once.

It’s a multithreaded world and I had to find out about Rex’s death through the ridiculously indirect rubric of Facebook friend comment status update statuses which themselves contained the ridiculously indirect and abstract rubric of those who shrink back into euphemism when faced with the only absolute most gay men will ever face: death.

The only other absolute as human beings that exists is realization of a child, and only very very recently have I had the chance to see that reality on the face of a gay man I can truly relate to; that’s how I know it’s an absolute: by giving empathetic attention to a wonderful father.

My cousin Carol—though “cousin” hardly does justice to the familial closeness of the relationship—was online and listened. She’s awfully good at that. She’s awfully good at a lot of things that world seems to have lost the knack of. She and my other cousins, her sisters, all are, as are my two parents, three brothers and two sisters-in-law.

It’s a family of listeners and perhaps that’s why I have no patience for the masturbatory periphrasis of all these euphemisms. It’s fear that drives them, or a crowding of personalities to try to best each other, trying to “get all of the misery right”.

Literally, a crowdsourced effort to kill the notion of our Death in the Family.

But Rex was a man. A gorgeous, beautiful, brilliant, artistic man’s man. He was as flawed as me or you or any of us, as all of us, because he was one of us. That’s what made him so easy to touch and be touched by.

In fact, he always led with that. Rex and I weren’t ever “officially” in each other’s company until—it’s a good thing I can touch type because my eyes are closed and my head is back, face upturned towards the ceiling as I type this—until we’d reach out as men and grab one another’s hand in greed, as close friends pull each other into a hug, as gay men kiss each other on the mouth and as gay men who simply adored each other, lingered in the hug, fuzzy cheek against fuzzy cheek.

I’ll always remember those moments carved out of time with Rex—not so much the moments themselves because I would be completely given over to them, but rather the guardpages of time before and after. Especially after: the smile on his face just for me, and certainly there was a smile on my face that was just for him.

And then we just were there, with everyone else. It was both good and bad that we could be like that because I think both he and I took advantage of the fact that no matter how many months passed without checking in with each other, we could close the gap in a matter of moments as if no time at all had passed. So we let months at a time pass.

And now he’s not asleep, not gone, not lost. Not sent away.

He’s dead and there’s no lesson in that. There’s no hope in that. There’s no wishing for it to be anything other than so. There’s nothing good about it. There’s nothing noble in it. There’s nothing grand or splendid or propitious about it. There’s no reason to be sanguine about it now or ever.

I will miss him terribly, do miss him terribly. I know what it is to live with death and there’s no feeling better about it. There’s only distracting yourself from your disconsolation if you can’t live in your own skin, and only you can decide for yourself if that’s an offense to the memory of the dead or not.

There is no judgment from the outside in the matter of the death of a loved one, and if someone tries to tell you that—including me, and if you think that’s what this entry has been about, you’re one of the people for whom the redundancy “reading for content” was invented—pity them.

And kindly tell them to stop interfering with your shit.

I loved you a lot, Rex, and I’m glad I always made sure you knew it. And selfishly, I’m even happier you always let me know you loved me, too.

My friend is dead and the world is short one short, beefy giant of a man.

Weekly Tweets: 2010-07-11

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San Francisan @ 17: Whither Real Friends?

This entry is a tradition of mine: after all, anniversaries are nominative traditions. And here I note my anniversary as a San Franciscan. 30-Jun-2010 23:45 -0700 was the magic timestamp, although the magic was carried neither in calendar nor chronometer.

Never is.

Magic doesn’t work like that: it comes from Within and Without. It’s the connection between the two: the string-in-tension vibrating, from which the music of life pours forth. One only needs those Better Ears with which to hear it.

My life has been filled with song since the off, and my upbringing informed my early years that I should be grateful to a Great Someone to Whom all my songs should be dedicated. Gratitude later gave way to appreciation, which gave way to realization that life itself is the music and it’s in the listening—or the ability or sensitivity to hearing it—where we succeed or fail.

Some of us hear the music in everyone, see it, really, and despair that the beauty of this gift of sight carries the price of rarity.

What a lonely irony.

And despite what you’ve heard about the partying rapport between gay men and irony, I am a very lonely man these days.

But the music plays and plays and plays and the mellifluous genius of human kindness and decency and loyalty, friendship, selflessness, thoughtful pause, commitment, choice—all fill my ears and carry me through my worsts of times.

And though my tradition this same time every year has been to visit the past year every year, my worst of times have spanned more than five of these past years every year.

Worst times because of the worst deeds done to me, worst excesses heaped upon me, worst demands made of me by the ones who inflicted the worst pain in me.

And when the Without either went the fuck away or was sent the fuck away, it was the long-neglected Within that needed tending.

Just as my life finally became fuckhead-free and reconfigured to remove from my critical path those who could not be trusted to catch me should I fall—Friend is a responsibility, not an evanescent sobriquet—instead of catching a break, I was further broken: The shadow of the Worst Without cleared my person, my house, the backyard, the neighborhood, this magical City of mine, and my life and before I knew what was happening, the neglected Within, white and withered, was sunburnt.

The count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well; but civil, Count, civil as an orange, and something of that jealous complexion.

Sunburnt meant anxiety: all the discordant noise, plangent tones and plaintive wailing I was now hearing was what was had become of all that music.

So yes, this Count is neither sad nor sick, nor merry nor well. But civil, if grumpy.

And my grousing has been misinterpreted by others as something carrying a jealous complexion. Easier to dismiss tidily that way.

Those dismissers are the people that make me try to think of the mellifluous genius of human of kindness and decency and loyalty, friendship, selflessness, thoughtful pause, commitment, choice…however, nothing but sick noise comes no matter how hard I try to find the baseline.

I was taught that friendship is for keeps and that like everything important and worth keeping, it comes with responsibilities, and responsibilities cost you something.

Loyalty costs you something. Commitment costs. Choice costs.

And that seems to scare the hell out of nearly every gay man I know.

When others—people to whom I am acquainted only through their relationships with my friends—when others hurt my friends, I hurt with them and I am aggrieved by those who have done the hurting: they are people I want nothing to do with either.

I choose to not associate with those I know have pained my friends. Why does anyone behave other than this? Is this my peculiarity?

I know that among the gays in my magical City, at least among most of the ones of my last five years (and you know how I characterize those), those who call me friend know what’s been done to me and remain associated with the perpetrators.

This is something I do not know how to live with.

Not and still call them friends.

Not and still hear my own beautiful music. And without that, I’m nothing to myself or to anyone else.

My Worst Times still aren’t over. I need to get out of the sun and stop the burning before I can live in out in the sunshine again.

Weekly Tweets: 2010-07-04

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