More music!

I'm behind on my bloggery, mostly due to the loss of my sweet kitty. That pushed other matters out of the way for while. I still cry sometimes when I think I see her out of the corner of my eye or when I miss some part of our life together, but overall I'm feeling better. I can catch up on writing about something that rarely happens—a New Year's resolution fulfilled!

I wrote that this year I was going to go to open mic nights. Well, I have. Twice so far. The guy who books the club where Lisa's Hotcakes played last Saturday night also runs an open mic night on Tuesdays, and he had been encouraging me to show up. Which I finally did. I hadn't done a solo performance in public since the 1970s. I kid you not! As soon as I started playing in bands, I stopped being a singer-songwriter, which I was never very good at anyway. And then during my long alleged retirement, I never went back to it, preferring instead to make home recordings. So this was a pretty big thing for me to do.

Despite the extended hiatus, I wasn't really nervous even on the first Tuesday. I had fun and got a good response. I played a couple of Hotcakes songs, a song I'd written before Hotcakes existed, and a very new Hotcakes song that the band has not yet worked on. I'm sure I won't go every Tuesday, but it will be a good opportunity to play songs that are not for the band as well as new (and old) Hotcakes songs. There is another open mic at a different club on Wednesdays. Our drummer, who also plays bass, wants to get out and play more, so perhaps we can work out some duo songs (that setup includes a bass amp).

I have done one more thing that is indirectly part of the resolution. Last Wednesday, I attended a monthly meeting of a regional songwriters group. This meeting turned out to be untypical, featuring a couple of people who own a publishing company who passed along information about the music business for writers. I spoke with the moderator afterward, though, and he said that at most meetings people get together, play new songs, and get feedback from the others. Not that different than the open mic, really, except these are people who are specifically songwriters. What I really want to do is to find one or more people with whom to collaborate, but that's something that can't be forced. So I will bide my time and get to know people and maybe find someone with whom to work.

I certainly haven't left the band behind! Our show on Saturday went well. Little by little, we connect with people who aren't friends but might become fans. A real fan base is key to any band's success. And on Wednesday, I am planning to attend a grant writing workshop. Sometimes it's possible to get a grant to help fund a particular project, such as a video. I know nothing about grant writing. After Wednesday, hopefully I will know at least something.

I'm not doing as well with all my resolutions, of course. I have not been exercising. I really need to find a form of exercise that I will want to do, and that's not easy. But I've been reading about a program called Pound that seems to be aerobics and strength training with air drumming. Now that's something I might be able to get behind!


I'd do anything to hear you purr

You gave me The Look / That's all that it took
Feed you, brush your fur / Listen to you purr
Marley adopted us in late summer of 2003. She had been in the Vancouver SPCA shelter for several months. She wasn't the only kitty we looked at, but she was the one who won our hearts.

They told us that she might be a bit shy for up to a week. Instead, she came out of the basement in only a few hours, and that night she hopped up on the bed to sleep with us. Even during her probation period, she knew she was home, and really so did we. Right away, she showed us how loudly and easily she could purr. It was truly delightful.
I know you own this place / Your private sleeping space
And if I dare disturb / You'll kick me to the curb
She had been a stray, which is why she was at the SPCA. The vet we took her to guessed that she was about six years old. We knew only a little about her background, but we could guess at more because of some by her behaviour. We figured she had been an only cat, since she would hiss at cats who came to the back door to visit. We also figured that she had been an indoor cat, since we could not get her to cross the threshold even in a harness. That meant that either she had been abandoned or had somehow got out and become lost. She wasn't going to make that mistake again.

She was a beautiful dilute tortoiseshell, "blue and cream" as it's called. Her fur was soft as a bunny's. She was also, well, plump. Quite plump. So Sweetie decided she had been the only pampered kitty of an old lady who fed her bonbons all day. We also thought she might have had a litter at some point.

As is the way with pets, we almost never called her Marley. One of her first nicknames was "bumphead," because that's what she would do—give you head butts when she wanted affection. As well, because of her girth and the particular position of the extra weight, we called her the Pigoon, after the creature in Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake that was a cross between a pig and a human and was used to grow organs for transplant. We figured those bulges were actually extra organs. Later, I took to calling her "puddin'." I don't know why, except that she would go all boneless when she was relaxed (as cats do) and could mould herself into any shape.

Not only did she purr easily and loudly. She was generally very affectionate. She wanted to be held only when she asked, but she loved laps, and she responded strongly to being scratched and petted. Sometimes when I would take a nap on top of the covers on a warm afternoon, she would insinuate herself into the crook of my arm and nap with me.

She talked. I mean seriously talked. She had a huge range of vocalizations and rarely just meowed. Her trill was our favourite. That usually happened around being fed. She loved food!
Only the best for you / Nothing less will do
You're worth it everyday / Wouldn't have it any other way
We had known from the start that her renal system might someday be problematic. She lived most of her life quite normally. In 2011, she was diagnosed with early stage renal failure. We made adjustments. Periodically, we would take her to the vet for a "kidney flush," intravenous fluid that would help get her lab numbers back to normal. That helped for a long time. We changed her food, changed litter, gave her pills, made other accommodations. Fortunately, we had pet health insurance. During all that time, she seemed quite as happy as ever. She hated the pills, of course, but she forgave me right away for being the pill giver.

As she got older, she slept more, as is normal. Toward the end, she lost weight to the point where her "pigoon organs" pretty much disappeared. She needed more frequent veterinary care, which she did not like. But when she was home, she was still eating food and behaving fairly normally. That is, until we got back from Portland after our New Year vacation. She went off her food. She became listless. We brought her to the vet, but after three days her lab numbers were still poor.

On Thursday the 10th, we went to see her. We had hoped against hope that we might be able to bring her home one more time and that she would perk up there. But we saw right away that she was in considerable distress. She was barely responsive to us. She was very weak. We asked the vet, and he said if she was his, he would let her go. We knew we needed to do that for her sake. We stayed until the end. I don't think I've ever been through anything more difficult than that.
I live to serve / I'm at your beck and call
It's not enough / You only want it all / You only want it all
The chorus is really just making fun. We took as good care of her as possible out of love. And she repaid all the love and affection we gave her with love and affection in turn. She was a bit of a scaredy cat around most people, but she loved us, she loved her nanny (the woman who came to feed her and take care of her when we were away), and occasionally she came out for other visitors.

She was so much a part of this house, and there is a huge gap in our lives right now where she is missing. It will get better over time, of course, but I imagine there will always be things that will remind us of her, and we will feel pain. But that's part of the territory with having a pet. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Good night, sweet Pigoon. We will love you always.

"Purr" by Véronique Boulanger. © 2012 Véronique Boulanger, SOCAN.


Fun in River City

I started to write a travelogue about our trip to Portland, but those aren't usually very stimulating unless you were there. I'll stick to the highlights.

Lisa's Hotcakes made its international debut on December 30th, the penultimate day of the year, at a benefit for the Rock'n'Roll Camp for Girls, the mother ship of all girls and ladies rock camps. It was great to be in Portland, great to be among friends, great to be playing for rock camp, and just great to be playing! We were joined by Piefight, playing their first show, and our friends Lather, Rinse and Repeat, who did a truncated set with the help of a couple of guest drummers (their drummer got stuck at work). It was fun from start to finish!

The highlight of New Year's Eve was a great dance party with DJ Anjali & the Incredible Kid, who spin many varieties of South Asian music. It was the first time Sweetie and I had been out on New Year's Eve since the mid-1990s. Usually we celebrate quitely at home and stay off the roads, but this event was impossible to resist. We went with our singer G (who knows Anjali) and met up with our (and her) friends E and K for a wonderful night of dancing and people watching. It was probably the most diverse crowd I'd ever been part of. It's not often an event will have such a mix of skin colours, and also not often that a "straight" event will be so gay-friendly.

We hadn't gone too crazy or stayed out too late, so we were able to start the year, and my birthday, with brunch at EaT, an Oyster Bar. All the Hotcakes plus our friend L. Shrimp and grits! That was G's thing, and now it's mine too. I had my first Bloody Mary as well, but it's likely my last. Really not my kind of drink. I spent the afternoon with Sweetie at Powell's City of Books and just walking around downtown. Portland is a great place to walk. It was cold though, so by late afternoon we were glad to catch the Max back to our hotel. In the evening, it was just Sweetie and me for my birthday dinner at the Screen Door, an unpretentious Southern restaurant with amazingly good food. It was really the ideal birthday dinner for me and capped off a wonderful stay in one of our favourite cities.

We're not the only ones who love Portland. Vancouver really does have Portland envy. Not long ago, we gained two restaurants, one called the Cascade Room and the other even less ambiguously named Portland Craft. Both are about Portland food, atmosphere and, especially, beer. There is even a band here called Praying for Greater Portland! And we're not the only Vancouverites who make frequent journeys to the Rose City.

The thing is, there's no reason that Vancouver couldn't be as wonderful and weird and fun as Portland. We have a lot going for us! Change a few laws (and maybe a few more, especially having to do with alcohol), do a bit of attitude adjustment, and we'd be there. But then, Canada is not the United States, and there is still a cultural difference. We'll just keep driving back and forth, I guess. And dream about Cascadia.