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A Maow Story — #2 in a Series

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I wanted my and Maow’s last day together to be as peaceful for her as possible, and for the most part it was.

I folded a bath towel so she’d have something soft to lie on, then lifted her onto my lap, and for the better part of six hours we sat in our chair together, listening to podcasts at low volume while I stroked her fur, scratched her ears and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

Later that evening, when it was time to leave for the veterinary clinic, I placed her in her open carrier and held it up near my face so I could talk soothingly to her as we made our way down to the car. She hated car trips, but this time she wasn’t enclosed in her carrier — she was now too weak to have made any attempt at escape — so I hoped that it would be a nice, calm, easygoing ride.

We got into the car, and I was a moment too long getting her carrier situated in the passenger seat before turning the key in the ignition … which was my aging vehicle’s cue to trigger its alarm, the insistent, repetitive stab-stab-stabbing of the car horn, shattering any semblance of serenity we had enjoyed up to that point.

I’ve never actually timed it, but it takes somewhere between 30 seconds and a freaking eternity for the car to register that it’s being driven by its rightful owner, who opened and started it with its original factory-issued key, rather than hijacked by a common criminal who breached it with a coat hanger or a brick and hot-wired it under the dash.

Once the horn finally quit blaring, the rest of the drive entailed more fur-stroking and soothing conversation, as I attempted to reclaim our serenity en route to complete the saddest of all possible errands.

Flash forward to this afternoon, three weeks later. The clinic called to notify me that Maow’s cremains were available to be picked up, so I made that drive one last time.

After signing and dating the cremation registry, I was handed a small box containing Maow’s remains, an envelope containing a cremation certificate, and a clay keepsake with an impression of Maow’s paw. I thanked the receptionist one last time, and Maow and I left together, headed home.

Once outside, balancing these items in one hand as I got back into the car, I was a moment too long getting them — getting her — situated in the passenger seat.

I set off the damn car alarm again.

This has been a Maow story.


Written by Shepcat

December 5, 2017 at 11:03 pm

Posted in Continuing Series, Life, Love

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How Would Lubitsch Do It?: A Parable

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During Hollywood’s golden age, between 1930 and 1968, filmmakers were governed by the Motion Picture Production Code, often referred to as the Hays code, which set out strict moral guidelines dictating what was acceptable and unacceptable content for American audiences, with a particular emphasis on sex.

The best filmmakers, not the least of whom was my idol Billy Wilder, were masters at subverting the code. By working within the restrictions imposed upon them, working around what they were not able to show or tell, they became better, more entertaining storytellers, in part because they made their audiences put 2 and 2 together, gave them credit for their own intelligence, and made them complicit in the telling of the story. Throughout his career, Mr. Wilder credited his own mentor, director Ernst Lubitsch, as the master of this technique, and challenged himself with a sign hung in his office that asked, simply, “How would Lubitsch do it?”

To illustrate “the Lubitsch touch,” Mr. Wilder pointed to the opening sequence in Lubitsch’s The Smiling Lieutenant (1931): There’s a king, a queen and a lieutenant, and you must dramatize, without being explicit, a situation in which the queen has an affair with the lieutenant, and the king finds out.

Open on the bedroom of the king and queen. They are dressing in the morning, and it’s a scene of affectionate domestic bliss.

Now the king leaves the bedroom. As he exits, we see the lieutenant standing guard outside the door in full dress uniform with his belt and sword. He clicks his heels in salute and watches as the king slowly descends the long staircase and eventually disappears into the palace.

We cut back to the lieutenant, who, assured that the king is now gone, enters the royal bedroom.

We cut back to the king as he descends the staircase, and halfway down he realizes he isn’t wearing his own belt and sword. He turns and ascends the staircase, returning to the bedroom. “Now we have a situation,” Mr. Wilder says.

The king enters. The door closes. We are never inside the room. The door opens. The king exits with the belt and sword. Happily he descends the staircase again, but as he tries to put on the belt, it doesn’t fit. It’s too small. It’s not his belt.

The king returns again to the royal bedroom, where he finds the lieutenant under the bed.

And scene.

Faced with a codified list of restrictions, Lubitsch has told us everything we need to know without explicitly showing us the lieutenant screwing the queen.

Early Saturday morning, like thieves in the dead of night, the Senate GOP pushed through their version of a tax code that will cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, explode the national debt by $1 trillion, and benefit the wealthiest citizens in this country while ultimately raising taxes on the middle class it purports to bolster.

Since the Reagan administration, we’ve been fed the lie that, if we decrease regulation, cut the corporate tax rate, and approve a tax code that further benefits the wealthiest Americans, in effect making them all wealthier, they will then reinvest that wealth in job creation and production that will bolster the U.S. economy and trickle that wealth down to the American people at large.

And yet, since the 1980s, all that policy has achieved is to widen the inequality gap among Americans, with CEO pay growing exponentially as American wages have remained stagnant, fewer American families controlling and enjoying the majority of wealth, and corporations increasing their bottom lines by hiding profits offshore and outsourcing jobs overseas, where they can pay foreign employees considerably less than they would pay American workers to do the same work.

The obvious benefit of paying American workers is that we would turn around and put that money back into the American economy, creating more growth, but the gun to the American electorate’s head is the notion that, unless we give the corporations and the wealthy what they want — more wealth up front — they can’t (read: won’t) give us the jobs and income we need to contribute to the American economy.

In point of fact, American corporations are more beholden to the shareholders they already have than to any notion that they might create new shareholders, who are by now so far behind the richest shareholders in this country that they could never catch up. So corporations will continue to outsource jobs to bolster the bottom line for those shareholders, in much the same way as the GOP will continue to court their political donations by creating for them the conditions most favorable to their continued growth and increasingly obscene wealth, which — as the last four decades of American life has shown us — is never going to trickle down to the American public at large.

In the middle of the last century, the average tax rate for the wealthiest 1 percent of American households hovered between 40 and 44 percent while corporations were taxed at a rate between 52 and 54 percent, which not only benefited all Americans and allowed us to rebuild the country after the Great Depression but also allowed us to help rebuild Europe after the Second World War under the Marshall Plan.

And while those rates were a restriction of sorts on the wealthiest Americans and American corporations, it didn’t prevent them from investing in American workers and spearheading a quarter century of growth and innovation during which American homeownership rose significantly as the rise of suburbs corresponded to the growth of American cities; we funded public education and the arts; college enrollment and graduation rates rose steadily as tuition remained affordable; we developed safer, more efficient automobiles; we built an interstate highway system that stitched the entire country together; we advocated for cleaner, safer food, air and water; we made life-saving advances in medicine and medical technologies; we developed faster, more efficient computers that increased production and reinvented the American workplace; and we put satellites into orbit and man on the moon.

Despite those restrictions on the wealthiest among us, somehow we accomplished all this without explicitly screwing American citizens.

And scene.

Written by Shepcat

December 3, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Life, Movies, Politics, The Nation

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A Maow Story — #1 in a Series

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It should surprise no one that I have an occasionally volatile temper and a frequently expressed penchant for profanity. The luxury of working from home for as long as I did is that I could express the upper registers of my outrage and artistry without shattering the presumed civility of an office environment and being summoned to H.R. for a lecture or my dismissal.

The downside of this arrangement was the proximity of my lone, entirely innocent office mate: Maow. When jackasses at work stressed me out, it caused me to stress out Maow, which was the very last thing I wanted.

So after unleashing a torrent of obscenities, I would often find myself kneeling down to Maow, stroking her fur to calm us both, and apologizing to her as soothingly as possible: “I’m not mad at you. I could never be mad at my Maow.”

Flash forward to the terrible last month of her life. She had spent an entire week, more or less, in seclusion behind the gold brocade chair, but as time went on and she rebounded a bit, she returned there only periodically, instead spending most of her time in the dining area or on the couch with me.

I wasn’t working then but would from time to time drop an F-bomb or spew a flurry of invective — a computer crash here, a Trump sound bite there.

On at least three of these occasions, my outbursts prompted Maow to emerge from behind the gold chair, as though she knew I needed to stroke her fur and come down from my anger.

Pets. What did we ever do to deserve them?

This has been a Maow story.

Written by Shepcat

November 16, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Continuing Series, Life, Love

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My Accomplice and Muse, First of Her Name, Queen of Our Realm, Ruler of My Heart

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When the love of my life left for Hawaii, she left in my care, as it were, the last great love of my life.

Adriane’s rationale was that at Maow’s advanced age, the sedatives, the long transoceanic flight, and the stress of relocation would wreak too much havoc on her tiny heart and her short- and long-term health. And I agreed.

Adriane decided. I agreed.

Because a drowning man doesn’t politely decline the offer of a life preserver. More than that, it was a great sacrifice Adriane was making for me, an act of love, of trust, of kindness — the single greatest gift anyone has ever given me.

Without Maow, I’d have roamed that empty house alone like the aged, diminished Kane in his Xanadu. It would have seemed cavernous and isolated, haunted, unmoored and adrift, like a ghost ship tossed about the dark waters of the gray, gloomy Pacific Northwest. Maow imbued it — and me — with life.

I woke every day knowing I could get through it with her at my side. “It’s going to be a very pretty day,” I would tell her, “because you’re in it.”

It was too much to ask of this tiny, chatty, cranky 7-pound bundle of bones and fur, this sentient miracle of evolution, that she bear the weight of my love and grief and anger and self-loathing. She took me on as her project anyway.

She kept me afloat and helped me find our desert island. I was Crusoe, and she was my Friday.

In the beginning, she was called Trixie.1

When Adriane discovered her in a shelter in San Diego in January 1999, she learned that the 8-month-old kitten had belonged to a sailor whom the Navy shipped out to another port and who had cried, heartbroken, when he had to return her to the shelter.

Adriane, whose genetic predisposition toward pragmatic pet names has always been a source of wonder and humor to me, brought her home and rechristened her Kitty, and Kitty she was for the next 11 years or so.

Some months later, an enormous, fluffy Maine coon entered their lives. Adriane named him Big Cat2, or B.C., and though he was afraid of virtually every other thing in the world (e.g., the ceiling fan in our bedroom, hilariously), he would proceed to be Kitty’s bully and tormentor for the remainder of his life.

Adriane and I moved to Sacramento together, and after six months I had only just begun to develop a relationship with B.C. — though not so much with Kitty, who habitually made herself as invisible as possible so not to invite any more of B.C.’s attention than was absolutely inescapable — when we had to euthanize him at Thanksgiving.

Within a few days, upon realizing that B.C. was gone and was never coming back, Kitty came out of hiding and out of her shell. With a vengeance. Previously resigned to silence, she began to speak up and express herself as though for the first time. And would not. Shut. The fuck. Up.

In short order, we began referring to her as The Mouthy Broad, the cranky, bitchy, opinionated soul of our home.

Alternately, because of her habit of crossing her little white paws in front of her (they looked to me like the dress gauntlets women of high society wear to the opera), we called her Fancy, a diminutive of her full title, The Disapproving Fancy Who Disapproves.3 (When she lay with just one leg stretched out in front of her — see above — she was “half fancy.”) And though officially still Kitty, we continued to call her Fancy off and on for about a year or so, up to and after our next move, to the Pacific Northwest.

During that time, I began to develop a closer bond with her, slowly earning her trust, giving her as much attention as she’d allow as she sorted out whether my attention was as toxic and unwanted as B.C.’s. This included my grabbing and squeezing her rear haunches in the transaction that would come to be known as grabass. Amazingly, she indicated that she liked this particular bit of attention. Instead of fleeing me upon release, she’d walk a few steps, stop, wait for me to grab her butt again, repeat. This became the hallmark of our daily interaction, prompting Adriane to remark, often, “You two have such a weird relationship.”

I also developed a habit of conversing with her in her own language. As long as she now had so much to say, I wanted her to know that the home office heard and understood her concerns. So when she maowed at me, I maowed back at her, and before long she became, inevitably, indelibly, Maow.

Now you know.

I never liked cats.

I understood all too well that other people did — adored them, in fact — but they just seemed like furry little assholes to me. With rare exceptions, they still do. Asked if I’m a cat person, my typical response is, “No, I’m a Maow person.”

The first cat I ever loved was my cousin Jeff’s cat, Lindberg, with whom I forged a fierce, unbreakable bond after a harrowing day together — and apart — on my very first day in Los Angeles. I became his go-to sitter for the last five years of his life. He was affectionate and willful, playful but corpulent and leisurely, and more than a little vindictive if you crossed or slighted him. He was, I’m almost entirely certain, the reincarnation of Orson Welles.

After Lindberg left us, I went back to not having any use for cats. Until Adriane.

Inasmuch as any creature, let alone a 7-pound ball of fluff with a brain the size of a walnut, can understand human language and human love, I repeated certain phrases as often as possible (see “pretty day,” above) in the hope that they would begin to imprint themselves on Maow’s DNA, so that she would understand at a molecular level that I loved her, and how much.

In Casablanca, Leonid Kinskey portrays the Russian bartender Sascha, endlessly infatuated with and solicitous of Madeleine Lebeau’s icy and manipulative Yvonne. Though she repeatedly, coldly fends off his advances, Sascha always cheerfully responds, “But, Yvonne, I love you.” And it was in Sascha’s voice, a little mockingly but entirely truly, that I first responded to Maow’s objections, “But, Maow, I love you.”4 Before long I ditched Sascha’s voice altogether.

That said, Maow lived in dread of our more demonstrative displays of affection. As someone once pointed out on Twitter, the reason cats are so pissy is that they’re God’s perfect killing machines but they weigh only 7 pounds, and we keep picking them up and kissing them all the time. Despite the rare occasions when she’d purr, Maow hated being lifted into our arms, suspended 5 feet above the floor and cuddled until we got our fix, burying our noses in her fur and inhaling deeply. (Always a fastidiously clean cat, Maow had the best smell, though hard to describe — a little smoky, a little like fresh laundry, not like an animal at all.) It became my habit, just before kneeling to release her from the indignities and encumbrances of my affection, to whisper into her ear, “Thank you for letting me love you.”

And though, whenever we left town, we left her in the care of others who would check in with her regularly if not daily, she would roam the house in our absence, looking for us, yowling her plaintive little yowl until her voice was hoarse. We’d return home to find her waiting, pissed off, expressing her discontent with a series of raspy little exhalations where words ought to have been. Depending on how long we had been away, it would sometimes take days for her voice to return. The length of time during which we’d await her forgiveness became shorter with each subsequent trip, and I want to believe that it’s because I told her often, “I will always, always come home to my Maow.” Even if I was just going out for groceries or to the movies or into the city for an evening of drinking with my fellow Men of a Certain Age, I would announce upon my return, “Who always comes back to his Maow? This guy.”

The night I took Maow to the emergency veterinary clinic, they let me go back to the big examination room where she was being processed, to see her before I left. All sharp angles and gleaming surfaces, the room was bright and noisy, and there was a yelpy dog in the cage next to hers. She was absolutely miserable, burrowed into the blankets, already smaller and weaker because of her illness, but she summoned enough energy to raise herself a little when they let me open her cage door. I loved her up and rubbed the bridge of her nose and spoke to her as reassuringly as I could, and when finally I willed myself to leave her in the clinic’s care, I reminded her one last time, “I’ll be back for you soon, because I always, always come back for my Maow.”

I’ll always feel bad that the last six months of Maow’s life were so stressful.

When Adriane and I finally put our house on the market, the daily peace of The Silent J was shattered and life suddenly accelerated into overdrive. Workmen came to floor our bathroom, steam our carpets, clean our windows. Maow’s once vast, open landscape became strewn and stacked with boxes as I packed for our move. Our real estate agent dropped by frequently, and the staging of our home meant that furniture and other familiar items disappeared from view and were replaced by alien presences not to be trusted.

Our first weekend on the market, as other agents and prospective buyers invaded the sanctity of our made-over home, Maow was incarcerated multiple times and removed to the park uphill from our house. Though it was only five minutes away, she hated her carrier and rides in the car and the fear and uncertainty they portended. Even though I often fretted that her world was so small, she fretted even more the wider world outside its boundaries. As objectively pleasant as our park and the time we spent there were, she was so distrustful of it that on our first visit she never emerged from the carrier she so hated.

Then came moving day, on which her world was invaded and pillaged, even her hiding places removed as she cowered under them in panic. Then she was left alone for a few hours in the completely empty house before I returned, incarcerated her again and drove her across town to our new apartment, the familiarity of all our things in one place providing no comfort to her at all.

Next, just as we were settling into our new environs, came the bedbug infestation, which didn’t victimize her, thank God, but which resulted in multiple exterminator visits, more incarceration and removal to distant places, more moving of furniture and vacuuming upon our return.

Then a visit to the vet.

One stress- and/or diet-related question to which I sought an answer prompted the office’s suggestion that it was about time for Maow’s annual wellness checkup and that we could get a fuller picture if I brought her in.

Incarceration. Car trip.

She was examined by the charmless lead veterinarian, the more coldly clinical, less comforting of the office’s three vets, who referred to her in the abstract as “the geriatric kidney patient” and “the individual” as he talked through her various conditions — the ongoing but not as yet prohibitive decrease in her kidney function (“stable” was the only prognosis we had received from her most recent bloodwork), the discovery of a heart murmur and a slightly accelerated heart rate since her previous visit, the possibility of hyperthyroidism and decreased metabolism, and other age-pertinent generalities to be on the lookout for as she declined. Which she did, almost as if on cue.

Not long after that appointment, Maow stopped eating, stopped pooping, became withdrawn and disappeared for long stretches behind the gold brocade chair (once my grandmother’s, adopted by Maow as her preferred perch after the move), as though she was trying to make herself smaller and invisible all over again.

I called our charmless vet to express my concern, and when he returned my call at day’s end, his only suggestion was to mix up her diet as much as possible, to try to entice her with new things. Which worked, however briefly and if only in small amounts. I allowed myself to be encouraged that Maow was eating again at all, but even that was short-lived, and she continued to become weaker and smaller.

On the advice of a vet Adriane knows in Hawaii, we made an appointment for subcutaneous hydration, which we hoped might also stimulate her appetite. The tech informed me that Maow had lost 2 pounds in the last month — which I knew, hence the appointment — but seemed otherwise indifferent, offering no suggestions and deflecting any questions I had, saying that our charmless lead vet could answer them all when he called back with the results of Maow’s latest bloodwork.

Which he never did.

Rather than wait until Monday for answers from someone who showed no urgency for or interest in our pet, rather than spend the entire weekend watching Maow starve herself to death, Adriane frantically consulted yet another veterinarian, and we ultimately settled on my taking her to the aforementioned emergency clinic. In the 48 hours she spent there, and again upon our return, I dealt with no fewer than nine different people — receptionists, technicians, nurses and doctors — each of whom went out of her way to be warm, considerate and comforting to both Maow and me. Adriane and I will be forever grateful to them, even as we remain perplexed and outraged that we didn’t feel one-tenth of that consideration from Maow’s own vet.

Maow rebounded in their care, however little and however briefly, and was discharged to me Monday night, with our hopes that I might have at least the coming week with her, to make her comfortable and spend as much quality time with her as possible.

It wasn’t to be.

At 9:44 p.m. Tuesday, November 14, 2017, Adriane and I said goodbye and let go of our brave, patient, perfect girl.

I had woken that morning to find that Maow was still lethargic and unresponsive, dismissive of food and oddly distrustful of water, though she’d at least make herself drink occasionally. Three times in the ensuing 24 hours she had urinated on the carpet where she lay, too weak even to walk 3 feet to the litter box I had brought out to her. Any energy she still had was spent resisting my attempts to pry her tiny jaws apart to medicate her. Twice she spat out the Prednisone tablet I was trying to force her to take, and after a failed third attempt I couldn’t will myself to continue fighting her. Even though the vet who had called with her ultrasound results said it was a matter of days, plural, I knew I couldn’t make her endure another day, singular. I called Adriane and told her I’d take Maow that night to be euthanized.

I decided. Adriane agreed.

It was the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced, knowing that I was escorting Maow to her death, but Adriane assured me repeatedly, however counterintuitively, that I was doing her the greatest kindness I would ever perform for her, thanked me for being her caregiver, apologized repeatedly for making me go through it alone. We had discussed the possibility of her catching the next flight out from the islands, but it quickly became apparent that we’d be making Maow hold on for hours that would become increasingly painful to endure.

We had a nice last day together. At least, I hope some of it felt nice to Maow — that she felt love — through the fog of her pain. Adriane FaceTimed with us in the morning and again that evening before we left, so she could say her goodbyes to the perfect creature whom she had loved for half her own life. In between, Maow and I spent the long, quiet day together in our favorite place: in our ratty old leather wing chair with Maow on my lap, as we had spent so many long Sundays while I drank coffee and proofread, awkwardly reaching over her whenever I needed to type or use my trackpad, and most evenings in front of movies and ballgames on TV.

When we took our last ride together, she was too weak to require incarceration. I removed the lid and gate from her carrier and padded it with a towel. I drove with one hand and stroked her with the other the entire trip.

Upon our arrival, a surge of adrenaline made her hyperaware of her surroundings, and I had to steel myself against this false resurgence of life, calm her down, soothe her nerves, and get on with the terrible task at hand. We spent a quiet half hour together, I reasserting my impossible, undying love for her, before I summoned the doctor.

I held Maow on my lap, and the first injection put her to sleep in a few seconds, her weary little head slumping over the side of my leg. The second injection — the coup de grâce — was quick and painless. Maow’s tiny, remarkable heart finally stopped, only because I told it to. Only because I let her go.

Thank you for letting me love you, Maow.

What I owe you is beyond evaluation.

1 An aside to those of you who knew Maow: God, can you even imagine?

2 In the years during which Adriane and I fell in love and were separated by a thousand miles, B.C. would occasionally enter the room while we were talking on webcam. Adriane would pick him up, and as he went limp his full weight would go completely square in her arms, like an enormous, furry suitcase. Hence, forever after he was Suitcase to me.

3 This is why, when Facebook insisted on a vanity URL longer than four letters, her presence there was signified by /disapprovingmaow.

4 Look, I’m a movie guy. I can’t help myself. When I imagined what Suitcase might say to me if he could talk back, for reasons I’m helpless to explain I always imagined he would speak in the voice of the French actor Jean Gabin from Grand Illusion and Pepe le Moko. And in my mind he always referred to me as “the tall one.”

Written by Shepcat

November 15, 2017 at 7:17 pm

Posted in Life, Love, The PNW

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The Draining of Mandalay Bay

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As we sit in front of our TVs, mesmerized by the updates from Las Vegas, freshly horrified by cellphone-video replays from every angle, and saddened by the stories of the identified dead, even as we are briefly buoyed by tales of heroic first responders and ordinary citizens springing into action to help the fallen and standing in line for hours to donate blood, here’s what I imagine is happening inside Mandalay Bay:

The hotel’s security and operations teams and its chief administrators have been piecing together a timeline, reviewing minute-by-minute closed-circuit camera footage from every angle, every point of entry, every corridor, every elevator or stairwell, every corner of the parking garage, every eye-in-the-sky, noting the time stamp every time Stephen Paddock’s room key was used, every time his girlfriend’s points card was used, marking his comings and goings and how full or empty his hands were, how many bags or cases he carried on each trip, retracing his every step over the previous three or four days — in addition to investigating any previous visits during which he stayed at their hotel, gambled in their casino, and possibly cased out the joint for the very weaknesses he exploited on this terrible occasion.

With each new revelation, each movement tracked, each breadcrumb unturned, Mandalay Bay is embarrassed, ashamed, and racing to recalculate their legal and financial liability to the families of the 59 dead and the more than 500 wounded. If it didn’t occur to them the instant the first shots rang out, they are now fully aware that they’re going to be buried under lawsuits. They’re going to have to hire more accountants because there’s a lot more math headed their way. They’re going to have to hire more lawyers because 580 or so victims could mean that at least as many as 580 or so lawyers are about to ring their phones off the hook. Which means they’re going to have to hire more switchboard operators. They’re going to exhaust however much insurance coverage they have and very probably declare bankruptcy to keep up with the sheer onslaught of plaintiffs that are headed their way as soon as those people’s grieving and pain abates long enough for them to think clearly again. Some heads are going to roll and some swords are going to be fallen upon. And when the dust settles down to a cloud that you can more or less see through, someone’s going to swoop in and buy the whole 11-acre shebang for a song (in Las Vegas–adjusted numbers) and slap another name on it so we can gradually forget the horrors with which we’ll forever associate the words Mandalay Bay.

I don’t gamble. And I’ve only been to Las Vegas twice. I’m just a writer with an aptitude for process and an occasionally active imagination, and this is just what I’ve come up with off the top of my head.

But you know who else’s imaginations are in overdrive right now? The trained professionals on every security team and every MBA-wielding front-office executive at every other casino and hotel on the Strip and on Fremont Street. This is what they do every day, so they are contemplating problems and weaknesses and scenarios that haven’t even occurred to me — and that maybe didn’t even occur to them until Sunday night. But I’m confident that among the sparks igniting many of their synapses are these two words: metal detectors.

Steven Soderbergh made two fun, lighthearted movies about how hard it is for a dozen motivated career criminals, give or take, to beat casino security, and Mandalay Bay just allowed one man with no apparent criminal record or history of red flags to walk a goddamn arsenal up to the 32nd floor of their hotel.

The house always wins, you say? The house has blind spots, just like everybody else. And this one didn’t even have to be big enough to drive a tank through. It took just one patient man, making multiple trips to his car and back, over the course of three or four days, in between visits to the casino, one suitcase or two at a time, to thread the needle and somehow not arouse the suspicion of a single member of a crack security team whose job it is to guard Fort Knox. They can catch you counting cards at a blackjack table, but they didn’t notice that a single occupant in one of their suites was moving in enough luggage to accommodate a basketball team for an extended stay.

So as we sit here for the umpteenth time waiting for our elected representatives to do anything meaningful, to do literally the least they can do to respond to this latest incident of “unthinkable, unfathomable, unprecedented” carnage, set your stopwatch for the demise of Mandalay Bay and watch how fast business as usual changes in Las Vegas. It’ll make your head spin like a roulette wheel.

Written by Shepcat

October 3, 2017 at 12:54 pm

Posted in The Nation

So That Happened: A Vignette in One Act

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Doorbell rings.

It’s the kid next door. Good kid, unfailingly polite, takes care of Maow whenever I’m out of town. Always rings the doorbell like this to ask if he can get a ball out of my backyard, as he does today. I’d be fine with him just going back there to retrieve his wiffle and tennis balls whenever I’m not quick enough to get out there and toss them back over the fence, but him always ringing to ask is a sign of his polite upbringing, so it’s worth the trip to the door.

But this also happens: He comes to door alone, but as often as not, it’s him and one or two other kids I see running past my windows in the backyard, ostensibly to retrieve a ball.

One ball.

Once, one of his friends was parkouring onto and off of the rocky terrace in our backyard, and all I could picture was the kid twisting an ankle and eating rock or crashing to the yard below and breaking a tibia and some parents suing me for medical damages because their kid’s a spastic moron to whom I didn’t give express permission to be in my yard.

Today, though, it’s only two of them — the neighbor kid and one friend — who go darting past my windows. The friend — these are 12-year-olds, by the way — is carrying some sort of clear plastic container in one hand and its lid in the other. And they’re back there awhile — like, long enough that I wonder was I really so engrossed by work that I didn’t notice them leaving the yard. So I get up and walk toward the dining room, and I don’t see them through the curtains in the part of the yard where I expect them to be.

But I hear voices.

Now I go over to the living room–side window, where the blinds are completely clapped shut and I’d look really obvious and creepy if I try to separate two of the slats to look out there and see what they’re doing. Still, this muffled conversation is taking place that sounds a lot more detailed and intricate than anything involving the retrieval of a ball.

One ball. With a lidded plastic container.

I should note that there’s absolutely nothing of value in the backyard that they could cart out without my noticing. So honestly, whatever’s back there that they can fit into this container they’re welcome to.

But the mystery persists.

And yet I’d be the creepy asshole in this picture if I just asked them point blank why are they really back there and what the hell’s with the container.

… and scene.

Written by Shepcat

August 29, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Life, The PNW


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I’ve always respected the principle of living within one’s means, so my concept of wealth has never revolved around living in a big house, belonging to a country club or driving an expensive car.

My idea of perfect wealth is the ability to buy 200 pairs of boxer shorts and put 185 into storage, hedging against the absolute certainty that, by the next time I need to buy underwear, the manufacturer of my preferred brand will have completely changed its design to something uncomfortable or otherwise objectionable, if not ceased production altogether.

Thus, the cornerstones of my capitalist manifesto are:

  1. True wherewithal is measured by one’s ability to outpace and outthink the free market.
  2. No matter where you live, no matter where you go, you’re always at home in comfortable underwear.

Written by Shepcat

August 6, 2017 at 11:35 am

Posted in Life