Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Southwest

Another long weekend, another visit to part of the United States I hadn't seen before.

Saturday - SEA to PHX

After waking up in rainy, chilly Seattle, landing in warm, sunny Phoenix Saturday afternoon was a welcome change. I put my coat away, hopped in my rental car, and drove to my hotel in Chandler. I came to see the Southwest, with no particular interest in Phoenix, so after heading out to the fancy foodie supermarket for road trip provisions, I had a quiet night and started to adjust to temperatures in the 20s (celsius). It never occurred to me that it would be the last I'd see of that weather for the weekend.

Sunday - Arizona

I had a full day of driving planned, so I woke up at a reasonable hour and pointed the car toward the Grand Canyon. Having always lived in very green, and very damp, locations, I've never had a lot of interest in the desert. Sure, despite fighting a cold when I arrived, my sinuses were mostly clear, and my hair didn't have even a hint of frizz, but it's so ugly. Right? Wrong. The Arizona scenery is gorgeous, an awe-inspiring demonstration of why they call it the painted desert. 

Speeding along, singing to my road trip playlist, I never noticed that I was mostly going uphill. While planning my desert trip, I failed to remember the other feature of the landscape: mountains. When I saw a sign for a chain-up area, and then a warning for ice on the roadway, I looked at the car's external temperature readout, and scoffed mentally, Psh. It's sunny, and dry, and 59 degrees out. Ice on the road... ha! But as the number on the elevation signs got bigger, the temperature on the dashboard got smaller (it bottomed out at 34 as I pulled into my hotel Sunday night), and the snow piled by the roadside got higher. So I put more energy into watching for ice in the shady spots on the highway than looking at the scenery around me. I only came across a few thin ice patches over the course of the weekend, which were all nothing under the traction control of my Kia Soul. Despite the car being the spitting image of a bright yellow shoebox with wheels, I was happy the rental agency gave me something a bit bigger and heavier than the little tin rollerskates I usually end up driving.

After about 4 hours of watching for ice, I pulled up to the entrance to Grand Canyon South Rim, where I got the opportunity to pay $25 to look at a hole.

OK, look, I get that it's a national park and it needs upkeep, but isn't that the government's job? Doesn't the national part of national park mean we should be putting tax dollars toward that end? When your average American family is likely to struggle to afford going to see the amazing things nature put in their own country, the system is broken. Anyway. End socialist rant.

Walking up to the rim of the Grand Canyon, you immediately get the sense that a photo can't possibly do it justice. But then you take 10 pictures of different views anyway, because that's what people do. It's so big, just unimaginably huge. And beautiful. But me being me, I pretty much did a Clark Griswold yep, uh huh, seen it, let's go and got back in the car.

Two or three hours east, after watching a brilliant sunset in my rearview mirror, I pulled into my hotel in Kayenta, Arizona. It boasted that it was "in the heart of the Navajo nation." It was dark when I arrived, but my brief tour of this nation's heart showed me a few businesses in shabby buildings, a lot of impoverished people, and a stark reminder that those Founding Fathers who Americans love to worship were a bunch of entitled dicks.

Monday - Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico

I started the day turning north toward Utah, and Monument Valley. When I got there, I opted against stopping at the official tourist attraction, and stuck with driving through. After all, isn't that the spirit of the road trip? It had to be the prettiest scenery of the whole trip.

But it didn't last long. Very quickly southern Utah became... monochromatic. Remember how the Crayola 64 box always had that red-brown colour called burnt sienna? I could use up the entire crayon drawing the landscape for that portion of my drive. As I neared Colorado, it turned into the lumpy brown hills covered in scrub that I found so unattractive on childhood visits to family in Central Washington -- even when my dad pointed out that it looked like Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street. It was boring, so I stopped at Four Corners Monument, where the imaginary lines of all four states meet.

It was a nice break from driving, and I took some photos for a nice family whose two small children had a similar desire for a pit stop, but there wasn't that much to it. After stretching my legs for a few minutes, I turned back south and into New Mexico, where I spent the better part of 4 hours on roads with nowhere to stop, and nothing but the same Snuffleupagus scenery. Sure, when I got back into the higher elevations, it looked much nicer covered in snow, but that's about the best I can say about it. At least that allowed me plenty of time to notice the road signs. There seemed to be a small number of informational signs, and a lot reminding me to wear my seatbelt, not to speed because airplanes were watching me, especially in the safety corridor where fines double and lights must always be on for safety, to never drink and drive, but if I see someone else doing it, to call this number. The few useful signs I did see all had at least one bullet hole. It sounds like an exaggeration, but it's completely true. It became a road game to see if I could count all of the bullet holes before the sign whizzed past at 70 mph.

I merged on to the major freeway into Albuquerque just in time for rush hour. After my directions sent me the wrong way and I accidentally, unsuspectingly, drove a ways down the historic Route 66 (so another bit of Americana checked off the list), I asked for Garmin Man's help and made it to the hotel. Given that it was dark and I was fed up with driving, I had some dinner and made plans to see Albuquerque in the light of my last afternoon before flying out.

Tuesday - ABQ to SEA

When I dropped off the cat on Friday night and told Steve where I was headed for the weekend, his only comment was, "Albuquerque's pretty." Coming from someone who grew up in Nevada, I wasn't quite sure what to make of that.

My check into things to do for my last afternoon didn't yield much, so I decided to have lunch at the Frontier, which was supposed to be some of the best eats in Albuquerque, and call it good. But having slept in much later than planned, hotel checkout was too soon after breakfast and I just wasn't hungry. So I ended up driving around town a while, and doing what people with no agenda and the sun in their eyes do: stopped at Target for sunglasses. I wouldn't say Albuquerque is pretty, really, it's more of a giant suburb, but it does have quite a backdrop.

I'm now sitting at the airport, having just eaten a delicious but overpriced burrito, waiting for my flight to board. All told, I drove just shy of 900 miles this weekend. And it was good. The road trip is in my blood, it's by far the most American thing about me.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

PNC Arena: Canadiens at Hurricanes

Well. Another arena, another Habs game. And last night's ended in a 3-1 win.

Part of Jody making sure I got my awesome new Pacioretty jersey in time for Christmas was so that I could wear it to the game last night. But I  bottled it at the last minute. I didn't want to deal with driving to the arena, so I figured I'd catch an Uber there, then get a drink somewhere nearby afterward, and head back downtown when the crowds dispersed. I imagined myself wearing a Habs home sweater, all alone, walking into a sports bar full of drunk Canes fans after the game. The image wasn't pleasant, win or lose. Turns out there's nothing anywhere near the arena, at least not that I could see beyond the vast parking lots, so I needn't have worried about sports bars.

I should have worried about the fans at the game, though, considering the woman next to me kept shrieking at an eardrum destroying volume for her team, booing mine, and calling Subban a diver. And the drunker she got, the louder she complained about hating Canadians. Not the Canadiens, Canadians, one of which I'm guessing she assumed me to be. Hopefully she didn't represent the rest of the team's supporters. 

It is always possible that I'll run into superfans when I go to games, though, given that I always sit as close to the ice as I can manage. I don't see my team often, so I had might as well see them close up. Last night's seat was 3rd row in front of the face-off circle to Carey Price's left for 2 periods. I don't know if it's how the arena is set up, but it was the first time I've been close enough to the ice to get a chill. Not an excited chill, an actual chill. When the action came by, the speed of the skaters threw a cold wind up off the ice... a cold wind that smelled like sweaty hockey equipment. It reminded me of some of my first exposure to hockey, seeing a high school friend play in a tiny rink that was normally used for figure skating. In the seating area (2 or 3 bleachers), you had waist-high boards, no glass, and a stern warning to keep your eye on the puck. So last night's cold, slightly smelly breeze put me right back to those early days of falling in love with hockey, more than 20 years ago.

But I digress. The other nice thing about being close to the ice is that you notice so many things that you can't see from the higher up seats, and definitely not from television. Like how nice the players are to kids, taking time to talk to them, or give them sticks and pucks, even on TV timeouts during the game -- I've particularly seen Brandon Prust and PK Subban do a lot of it -- but how they pointedly ignore all of the adult fans shouting out for attention. In fact, most players rarely look directly at anyone on the other side of the glass, except Andrei Markov, who occasionally scans the faces in the crowd with a look of disdain, or at least the Russian severity he's known for. Or that when my hockey boyfriend Max Pacioretty is concentrating on the ice, he has his tongue out, wagging around like the kid in A Christmas Story trying to decode Annie's secret message. And that Carey Price, normally deadpan in interviews, has big dimples, which he shows constantly during time outs, grinning away chatting with teammates... as long as the game is going well. When it's not so great, the smile goes away. He goes to the bench for water, nobody says a word, then back to the crease.

And before you ask, yes I was also watching the game. It was a typically frustrating affair like Montreal's been putting up all season. They had one strong period, then spent the rest of the game letting Carolina have possession, playing sloppy defense, and leaving Price all alone in net to save their asses. Luckily he's one of the best goalies in the NHL, and a couple more of our goals went in than did theirs.

But it came out a win, and I was happy. All's well that ends in the W column, I guess.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Carolinas

In my ongoing quest to see the rest of the US states before I leave this expansive nation, I find myself in Caroline du Nord, as some of my fellow Habs fans would say. I figured a Montreal hockey game was a good enough excuse to come to the Carolinas, and with a rented Chevy Cruze at my disposal, I've now seen some of both states.

I arrived in Raleigh Saturday night and wandered the streets around my downtown hotel a while looking for food. I wasn't feeling up to the raucous nightlife I could see going on in the many bars and restaurants, so after a lot of walking, I gave up, got a mediocre shawarma to go, and had a quiet night in. My plan was to get to bed at a decent hour so that I could transition to the new time zone seamlessly, wake up early to visit the fitness room and grab some free Hampton breakfast before watching the Dons game at 10, then hitting the road to an as-yet-undetermined location in South Carolina.

Of course, plans are usually disrupted by reality, and I soon found out why this was the first hotel room I've ever been in that had complimentary earplugs next to the mini shampoo and shower cap. I got to bed around 12:30, but couldn't sleep due to the loud untsa-untsa-untsa of what I can only assume was a nightclub nearby. After finally managing to drift off briefly, I was awoken again at 2am by screaming drunks who spent what seemed like an eternity hollering at each other, blaring car horns, and having some sort of competition to see whose bass could rattle my windows the most. I finally passed out sometime after they all fucked off home in the wee hours. So my plans had to be updated when I slept through my alarm and got up in time to watch just the last 10 minutes of Aberdeen's victory.

Determined to still get out and see the area, I used the googles to find things to do within a decent drive from here. After finding a lot of no interest to me, there it was: Cheraw, South Carolina, birthplace of Dizzy Gillespie, 2 hours away. Done. Sold. Sat Nav programmed. The drive was pretty simple and straightforward, and mostly devoid of traffic. Not that I would have minded; of all the parts of this country I've driven, Southern drivers are the nicest (yes, the Carolinas are part of the South). I never speed in rental cars, and I'm usually semi-lost, so I stay in the slow lane. And in the South, nobody rides my bumper trying to push me to go faster, they just pass by, and don't cut me off afterward. They move out the way for merging traffic, and then move back, so as not to clog the passing lane.

On my way to Cheraw, I saw many, many historical markers, mostly to do with war goings-on. If I were a person fascinated by American history, it would have been a great day out learning things. But I'm not. Only music history for me, so on I drove, reading nary a sign. Being a dork for anything Scottish, though, I was interested to drive through the town of Aberdeen, NC, which was so Scotland-inspired as to have a tartan sash emblazoned on its 'Welcome to' sign. I made a mental note to stop there on the way back, but when I came through the other direction, I was following a vehicle that said CAUTION CHURCH VAN on the back and became so obsessed with staying behind it to try to get a photo at a red light that I missed the whole town, and the picture.

Anyway. Despite losing phone signal at the state line, I drove directly to the birthplace of Diz to find that it's not much worth making a 2 hour drive for. There was another of those famous historical markers, and the vacant lot where his house had been was turned into a park with a few benches and some jazzy modern art. I stepped out of the car for some photos, did a quick drive through the dilapidated downtown area, and turned back north. By the time I got back to Raleigh, I was tired out and wanted nothing more than a movie and bed.

Today I did bit better in my tourist attempts, and took a walk over to the State Capitol and the North Carolina Museum of History. As I said, I'm not a history buff, except for music, and I'd seen on the website that the museum had an exhibit on Carolina Bluegrass. I was disappointed when I got there to see that it was just one glass case without much more than some Doc Watson records and a kid playing the banjo on an old TV show. But since I was there, I wandered the whole museum, and was again reminded of how Southern this state really is, and how much tobacco means to it. It's odd, though, for all the tobacco influence on the area (I went through Marlboro County yesterday, everywhere I turn it's Tobacco Road this or that), I have seen very few smokers out and about. Maybe their history means they know enough to know better.

I'm now taking a rest before the big Habs-Canes game tonight, and then tomorrow I fly off to Edinburgh for Hogmanay. But not before I get some good barbecue. I have 3 hours between hotel checkout and airport check-in, so I hope to spend as much of that time as I can consuming smoked meats. And enjoying every delicious minute of it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts

Remember yesterday when I was waxing poetic about enjoying the journey, never mind the destination? Well, today I enjoyed very little of it. Today my journey was mostly miserable.

When I originally looked for a route for the 2nd day of the trip, I noticed that pretty much any road I used to drive across Connecticut and Rhode Island went near Hartford and Providence, so I chose those as my two stops on the way to Boston. The plan was to leave Bennington early, stop for lunch in Hartford, stroll through downtown Providence in the mid-afternoon, check into my hotel in Cambridge after a brief stop at the Harvard Bookstore, then ditch the car and catch public transit into Boston for dinner. But, of course, when we plan, the travel gods laugh.

I woke up this morning with completely clogged sinuses and a raging headache, after my body clock decided that alarms were for suckers, and I was sleeping until 10. It took the coffee and decongestants until 10:45 to kick in, but then I was off... only a couple of hours behind schedule.

I made a quick stop at Bennington College, because it was only 5 minutes out of the way, and it allowed me to make a 30 Rock reference on Instagram. From there, I asked Garmin Man to take me to Hartford, and he had one of his obviously you're insane and that place doesn't exist moments, so I asked Google Woman instead. First mistake.

While the Google Maps app is much better at finding locations and staying connected, the directions are absolutely terrible. I had barely left Vermont when I'd already been told to turn the wrong way twice in a row, making Google Woman begin insisting that I turn around immediately. I'm not sure a computerised voice can sound panicked, but she seemed fairly anxious while repeating "turn left" nonstop until I found a place to circle back. She then directed me on the longest detour around some Massachusetts suburb possible before putting me on the Masspike going toward New York. I pulled off and gave Garmin Man a chance, who informed me minutes later that he'd lost connection and couldn't get it back. My phone then flashed up an alert that its battery was about to die, because the charger had come loose hours before. Even plugged back in, it couldn't charge fast enough to replace the speed at which it was draining.

So I shut off my phone. I was far, FAR from my printed just in case directions, so I decided to follow the road signs. I knew I needed to go southeast, so at any fork, I picked the road that took me in that direction.

Not only was my new strategy less stressful, it was also much more accurate; within a short time I had crossed into Connecticut. It also gave me the opportunity to do some road sign banter with myself (eg It says Canaan to the left, so I'll go right. I mean, Canaan's a hell of a town, but I've just come from Canaan and it's not the kind of place I need to see twice today!), and navigation by Gilmore Girls (eg Hey, Litchfield is that way. What was it that happened in Litchfield? Did Luke move there? I remember Litchfield being near Stars Hollow, and Stars Hollow was 30 minutes from Hartford with no traffic. I'll go toward Litchfield). When I finally saw signs for Hartford, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

Of course, my lunch in Hartford plan was a failure, since I took the exit to the capitol building at almost 4pm. I drove a couple of blocks looking for parking, and found myself in a pretty rough area of town. I was tired and didn't have the patience to look for a better place to leave my car and something interesting to do, so I asked Garmin Man how to get to Providence, and he got me there just before 6. At this point I had a very full bladder and cramped up legs, so I pulled into the first place I saw that would allow me to deal with both these problems: a mall. I also managed to grab a coffee and get back on the road around half an hour later.... Just in time to get stuck in traffic.

When I was nowhere near Cambridge at 7:30, I gave up hope on anything Harvard related and updated my destination to the hotel. I hate the vast majority of fast food, and didn't feel like sitting around a restaurant, but I was starving. There were loads of strip malls on the way, so I figured I'd just pop into a supermarket for a sandwich and eat it when I got to the hotel. Nothing. Absolutely nowhere selling foodstuffs. I could've bought almost anything else imaginable on that road -- cars, lumber, pet supplies, smart casual wear -- but not groceries.

When I finally made it to the hotel, it was 8:30pm and I was fed up with everything and everyone. I managed to squeeze the little red Fiesta into the last tiny parking space in their garage and get up to my room without strangling anyone. Turns out there's no food nearby here either, so my dinner consists of handfuls of the peanuts and granola I packed for snacks. And I'm not going into Boston tonight, because I'm angry at the world, and I'm a Habs fan, so you do the math.

Tomorrow is looking like it will be one of the rare times that I'm going to be happy to get back to Seattle. And I may think twice the next time I have a brilliant idea to take a road trip.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont

A few months ago, I started missing my travels. I don't miss flying constantly or giving way too much money to airlines, because I still do that. But it's just part of my commute between where my heart lives, and where the rest of me has to live most of the time. I miss going places I've never been. Exploring. So I decided to make it a point to visit the states I hadn't been to before, which is about half of them, before moving out of the US. And that's why now, after some previous cancellations due to circumstances beyond my control, I find myself in Bennington, Vermont.

Around the time I started looking for new places to go, Sam Roberts Band posted their US tour schedule for this fall, which included a show in Portland, Maine. I'm not much of Sam Roberts groupie, but I can say that I never tire of seeing him live. As I've said before, music is like a relationship. The records can be the crush and the courtship, but the live show is like sex -- it can make or break it, no matter how well things are going. For example, much as I still enjoy Camera Obscura's music, their live show was so boring that I lost the infatuation. They didn't seem to want to be there, so neither did I. But Sam Roberts Band took an enjoyment of the albums and made me fall in love at the first live gig I attended. So they were a good enough excuse for me to spend a long weekend seeing New England in a rental car.

I took the red eye Wednesday night, and my connecting flight had mechanical issues, which meant I got to my Portland hotel around noon yesterday, on no sleep whatsoever. After a loooong nap, I wandered downtown a bit, had pizza with mashed potatoes and bacon on it, tried a local beer, and went to the show, which was fantastic as always. Portland reminds me of a hipper, slightly bigger, friendlier Juneau, Alaska. And I can't really explain what that means unless you've been there. It's just an attitude thing, I think.

This morning, jet lag got the best of me and I didn't hit the road until midday. I fired up the Garmin app and headed to Cape Elizabeth to take a photo of a lighthouse, because one can't leave Maine without a lighthouse photo. It's one of those laws no one ever tells you about, but that counts toward the Three Strikes legislation nonetheless. I walked out toward the water and snapped a few pictures, but soon became fearful that I, or at least my phone, was going to get blown off the rocks and into the breakers, so I turned back and pointed the little red Ford Fiesta toward New Hampshire.

Unfortunately my phone had no signal out on the cape, so I couldn't use my satellite navigation app and had to trust my pre-printed just in case directions to get me on my way. Of course that went poorly, and I drove miles through beach towns (which were completely interchangeable with every Washington or Oregon beach town I've ever been to) before finally reconnecting with the guiding satellites and getting back on track. It guided me to Concord, New Hampshire, where I spent maybe half an hour wandering Main Street and looking at the State House, before setting me off again toward Vermont. It got dark not long after I crossed the state line, so I haven't seen much of the third state in my day yet, but I'll rectify that tomorrow.

This is my first attempt at using this particular sat nav app, and so far I have mixed feelings about it. Probably 60% of the time it has been useless, either because it can't find gps, it can't figure out where I'm telling it I want to go, or it "can't calculate route," which I take to be the high-tech version of can't get there from here. On the other hand, the Englishman giving me directions is always very patient, and calmly states the new route when I inevitably fail to follow his instructions. He never shouts, "Where are you going? You've missed another turn, you twat!" which is what I tend to say when assisting the driver with directions. I'm going to give the app another day, but really wish I could download that special add-on with Billy Connolly's voice; he'd definitely say something rude to me when I went the wrong way.

Navigational issues aside, though, it was quite a nice several hours of driving -- no big multi-lane interstates, just winding, leafy, highways that slow to 25mph to become Main Street in endless small towns. I came here with no particular agenda beyond the concert, reserved hotels in a couple of arbitrary cities, and found routes in between. After I had my flights, I did some research on road trips in the area, and they all centered on autumn leaves and covered bridges, so I ignored them. I haven't seen any covered bridges as yet, but I have seen a hell of a lot of multicolored foliage. It's pretty. It is. And I guess this much of it would be really fascinating if you're excited by such a thing. I, personally, was more excited by the many signs telling me to watch for what was crossing over the next few miles. Mostly it was moose, occasionally deer, and once snowmobiles. But I never saw any of the three, despite very keenly watching for moose, deer, and snowmobiles in my path.

At any rate, when you're trying to get somewhere specific on a road trip, all you care about is getting there, as quickly and easily as possible. When the point of the road trip is the road, it's just the next curve, the scenery in the distance, and the song on the radio. It's so much easier to enjoy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

An Independent Scotland. I Hope.

In about 4 hours, polls will open, allowing the people of Scotland to vote for or against independence. To decide their country's future.

It's been fascinating watching them get to this point. I've paid close attention to Scotland ever since my grandmother's Scottish relatives claimed little toddler me as one of their own, and in recent years have visited regularly, but I've spent the most time there over the past year and half that Jody and I've been together.

When we first discussed the independence referendum early on, Jody joked that it was my job to figure out how he should vote. Since then, he's gone from someone who was disillusioned with politics to a registered member of a party and an active Yes campaigner. Which is about how the rest of the country has progressed as well. Last year, when the subject came up, everyone was undecided, taking the wait-and-see approach. As we got a few months closer, the most common sentiment I heard around Edinburgh was a lack of trust in the information coming out of both parties: "I wish someone impartial would give us the real story." People just wanted to know what would happen in the event of yes or no, and they didn't think anyone was telling them.

Jody's campaign efforts - photo from @YesScotBorders on Twitter
As the day of reckoning approached, impartiality was still lacking. People moved into their Yes or No camp, and those groups diverged. With the rest of the UK and all the major media outlets behind it, the No campaign went for standard political tactics of press and big names. The Yes campaign went grassroots. And as could've been predicted, No pushed fear and big media misinformation, while Yes pushed hope and social media fact checking.

When the headlines said the Royal Bank of Scotland was leaving if independence went through, I learned on Twitter that actually only an address on some paperwork would change. When the big heads came out of Westminster and offered more powers for Scotland, the internet pointed out there was nothing specific on the table and found the posts of MPs vowing to block any new powers anyway. While the news is pushing people to No, Pub conversations are converting people to Yes.

But either way, big media or grassroots, something's working. It has been reported that 97% of those eligible are registered to vote in the referendum, and the turnout is expected to be over 80%. Eighty percent of the population showing up to tick a box next to Yes or No. Whatever the outcome, people are engaged. People are talking about their country, about how things can and should be. And that can only be good for Scotland.

I decided some time ago that I'm all for Independence. If I could, I'd be voting yes. There are so many good reasons to vote yes, but to my mind, the only reasons for voting no are sentimentality, fear, lack of awareness, or being wealthy enough that the Tories' shenanigans actually benefit you. I can forgive the first and last reasons; if you really feel -- heart over head -- that you need to be a citizen of the United Kingdom, or you're driven by your vast finances, then fine. I don't agree with you, I think it's a selfish way to vote, but I can forgive it. The other two have no excuse. If you're voting no out of fear, or because you haven't gone out to investigate the issues for yourself, you're playing right into the hands of the No campaign. Like Republicans and their Fox News here in the States, they want to keep people afraid of their own shadow, because that makes them easy to manipulate with misinformation. Voting no for those reasons means you're willing to keep being controlled and shat on when you could have better.

I don't get a vote. I'm not a citizen. I don't live in Edinburgh. Yet. But the Scottish people are deciding my future  tomorrow too. Because Scotland is my part-time home, where the man I'll marry lives, where I'd be living full time now if at all possible. So I'm counting on 5 million people I don't know to make the right choice on my behalf.

Vote Yes.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kitty Hospice. Again.

There's a piece of wisdom among those with multiple cats that they all come in separately, but they leave together. Unfortunately I'm finding that hold true as, 3 months after losing Zooey, I have another cancer-riddled cat with a grim prognosis.

For the past few weeks, Selby has been having issues that pointed first to her lungs, and then to her throat, but no medication was giving her more than minor improvements. At a loss, the clinic called on a specialist who looked at her x-rays, gave her an ultrasound and did needle biopsies of 2 large masses, both of which came back malignant. She has cancer spread from her back into her ribcage and in one lung, with possibly more we haven't seen up toward her nose and throat. She's 15 years old. Based on what they found, chemo isn't an option, and surgery (which would be pretty hard on her given the tumor locations) usually gives less than 6 months before it comes back.

So I was offered the contact information for an oncologist, but I don't know that I see the point. I'm going to pick up more medication tomorrow to try to keep Selby comfortable in the time she has left, which the doctor said would be a month, then paused and added with forced optimism, "maybe more."

I've had animals all my life, ever since my parents brought me home from the hospital to meet their two dogs, and if I was able to choose just one to live forever, it would be Selby. Maybe because I've raised her from 6-8 weeks old until nearly age 16, or because she's been with me through all the best and worst times of my adult life, or because I grew into the person I am today with her always sitting in my lap, but she's more a part of me than any other cat or dog has ever been. I can't imagine life without this talkative little Canadian beast demanding I drop everything and be her furniture.

I remember taking her in to get spayed when she was a few months old, and they had to keep her overnight. When we went to pick her up, the person was gone for what seemed like a long time, then returned and asked me to come in the back. I had a flash of worry, what could possibly be wrong? I found Selby stubbornly clinging to the rear wall of her kennel, refusing to let anyone touch her. As soon as they opened the door, she leapt out into my arms. That's the moment I knew that no matter how many people or other cats I loved (who she treated with something between tolerance and affection), it would always be me and Selby against the world.

Which just makes me have more superstitious guilt about naming her after the brilliant writer Hubert Selby Jr, who was also one of a kind and has meant a lot to me, but also had his share of health problems. Here's some of his bio on biography.com:

Hubert Selby Jr., perhaps best known for his novel Last Exit to Brooklyn, was born on July 23, 1928, in Brooklyn, New York.

Selby went to sea as a merchant marine while he was still in his teens. Laid low by lung disease, he was, after a decade of hospitalizations, written off as a goner and sent home to die. Deciding instead to live, but having no way to make a living, he came to a realization that would change the course of literature….

Selby died of chronic pulmonary disease on April 26, 2004, in Los Angeles, California. At the time of his death, he was working on an autobiographical novel and screenplay, in addition to teaching a graduate writing class at the University of Southern California.

My Selby came out of the SPCA as a young kitten, underweight, with parasites, a respiratory infection, gastro-intestinal issues, and no training from her mother on how to be a proper cat. From there she went through fatty liver disease (which nearly killed her), multiple eye infections, loss of a couple infected teeth, chronic inflammatory bowel syndrome, and asthma. If she nearly died and fought back through the health issues like her namesake, I just hope she goes out still active like he did too.

So to that end, I'm off to resume my hospice nurse duties, give Selby a cuddle, and see what I can do to improve her day.