Monday, July 26, 2010

It's very sad around here.

We just got back from our family vacation in Hilton Head, and what I wanted to be doing was posting pictures and gushing about how fun it was. But I just don't feel up to it. My sixteen-year-old cat, Koty, died while we were away. Alone. In the basement.

I know it's a bit self-indulgent to grieve so greatly for an animal when the blogosphere is full of people dealing with losses so significant and terrible that mine pales in comparison. But I am just so wrecked I have to write about it.

It's not so much that she's gone. She was sixteen years old, and her last year was full of health problems. She developed a mammary tumor in November that constantly opened up into a bleeding wound. Due to her age, we weren't sure if we should spend $1000 to fix her, as she wasn't in any pain and still ate like a horse. But she had to remain in the basement of my parents' house to keep from bleeding everywhere. Eventually, the thought of her living out her days in the basement was just too awful. So in May we sprang for the surgery. The vet almost didn't do it, because her blood tests revealed that she was in kidney failure, relatively common for older cats, but in the end the pros outweighed the risks.

She made it through, and David and I took her back to our house. For two months she lived there with the roam of the house, on our laps every night while we watched television. But she wasn't entirely well. Not in pain, but vomiting and urinating all over the house. Exceptionally gross.

Two weeks ago we moved back in with my parents in preparation for our departure to Scotland, and Koty had to go back to the basement. I was so busy and preoccupied that I basically only saw her when I fed her twice a day. She barely moved from the same spot in the corner of my Dad's office those two weeks. But she was still eating like a horse, and seemed perfectly fine.

When it was time to go, we couldn't find anyone to come and take care of her. Finally our housekeeper agreed to come on Wednesday and Thursday, but as we were leaving on Friday, that would mean she was alone for four days. We have an automatic feeder with hard food and an automatic waterer, so foodwise she would be fine, and she'd been alone for three days before. I felt bad, but honestly I was just so busy and stressed that I didn't think about it much. It never occurred to me that what happened would ever happen.

On Thursday, the housekeeper called to say that Koty hadn't eaten any of the food she'd put out the day before, hadn't used the bathroom, and appeared very sick. We were all worried, and thought about calling someone, but weren't sure what to do. The craziest thing, what I feel so so awful about, is that we did nothing. I'm not sure why. I must have been in some serious denial. She's gone through periods of not eating before, but she's a resilient cat and I guess I just never thought she could be that sick. We would be home in two days, and then I would take care of her.

Only when we got home it was too late. We found her lying in the same spot in my Dad's basement office, eyes closed, cold and stiff. This was, no joke, one of the worst moments of my life. Finding my faithful, loving cat, whose favorite place in the world was on my lap, dead on the floor--where she'd spent her last week of life alone and sick, abandoned and helpless while we played on the beach--just kills me with guilt and shame.

I have no doubt that she died because of me. I know that if she were a healthy cat, obviously she would have been fine. But I didn't realize how sick she was, and without the wet food that she loved her kidneys probably shut down and she died of dehydration. I've heard that this isn't agony, more like a hangover that you spend a lot of time sleeping off, that she probably slipped into a coma and died peacefully. But I just picture her hurting and wondering why no one was coming for her. I honestly don't know how to get over my part in her horrible death. She deserved so much better.

If you've read this all the way to the end, I appreciate it. I haven't been able to sleep and have barely eaten since we found her. I know she was just a cat, but animals have such innocence that their suffering is all the more horrific. Anyway, I hope one day I can forgive myself. But for now, wow, that day seems far off.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ah, Cleveland

Once again I am getting nostalgic about leaving Cleveland. This city holds a paradox for me: I love it so much, and miss it while I'm away (often I can't imagine settling anywhere else), but within a few months of living here, I am inevitably desperate to get out.

It's not Cleveland, it's me. Something about coming back to my hometown regresses me into utter complacency. I can't seem to see it with the fresh eyes I wear in other cities I've lived in. Tourist's eyes, I suppose you could call them. I lose the energy to actually go out and do things here at a shocking rate, and end up doing nothing even though there's so much to do. This doesn't happen in other places. Maybe it's my history bogging me down here. Maybe it's the fact that I already have old friends, so don't bother making the effort to make new ones, even though my old friends are busy and, for the most part, a fractured group that doesn't form a cohesive whole (I know a lot of people who don't know each other, that kind of thing). I honestly don't know what it is, but living here erodes me. Which sucks. Because I love it here.

Before I leave, I should really do a Cleveland post that gets into the meat of what makes this city so awesome. But until I do, here's Anthony Bourdain talking up Cleveland in the wake of Harvey Pekar's death (RIP, Harvey):

The Original (Goodbye Splendor)

Friday, July 09, 2010

We interrupt this blog to talk about Lebron James.

So it's no secret that I'm from Cleveland. I grew up in this town and I live here now. And I love it. It's a great city, hugely underrated a far as I'm concerned, with a stunning amount of diversity, a world class arts scene (one of the top seven orchestras in the world, an amazing art museum that is always free, the largest theatre complex in the nation outside of Broadway, just to name a few), some of the top-rated restaurants in the country (Cleveland has recently been named a top culinary destination by a variety of magazines), a library system that is unrivaled by any I've seen (New York's libraries pale--I mean pale--in comparison), and a true Midwest friendliness.

But it's a sad town. People are leaving in droves, people like myself who love it (and nearly everyone who was raised her loves it), but can't stay in a place that constantly feels as if it's on the verge of dying. The school system is in a shambles. Unemployment is everywhere. Our economy is balanced precariously on the medical field and, until last night, on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We're a city of perpetual disappointment, eagerly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory every chance we can get, and in no other place is this as true as in sports.

In football, baseball, and basketball, Cleveland has fairly consistently made it to the championships (with the exception of the Browns, who once were the eighties). We play better than anyone else. But we always, we always, lose in the end. It's a metaphor for the city itself. So much potential, so much to offer, but not enough to make the difference between a city that is thriving and one that is dying. It's sad. It's really, really sad.

And now Lebron. Lebron Effing James. I am speechless about it.

Because it's not just a game in Cleveland. In a lot of ways, it's all we have keeping us afloat at the moment. He's brought hundreds of millions into a city that desperately needs it. He's provided a role model for kids in a going-nowhere educational system (though whether a ballplayer should be a role model for schoolkids belongs in another post). Most importantly, he brought hope to a city that had none. He was one of our own, born and raised, and he promised us--he actually promised us--a championship that he failed to deliver in seven years. And then he turned his back on us.

It's not just that he's leaving, though he shouldn't have left. I honestly think the best choice would have been to stay for five more years. To give five more years to the city that nurtured him and loved him, to try and give them the championship he promised, with the understanding that when that five years was up, he would be free to move on with no hard feelings. That would have been the gracious, some-things-are-more-important-than-Lebron decision. That would have been a show of true greatness.

But I know it doesn't work like that. Though it baffles me, I understand that the only loyalty that exists among sports players is to themselves. I hate this system, where people follow the money and the winning, rendering the teams they play for meaningless beyond being the economic engines that drive them. I don't get it; I hate it; but that's how it is. I know that.

So leaving is one thing. Fine, leave. He has to do what "makes Lebron James happy." (Is he always going to refer to himself in the third person now? What's next, the royal we?) So it's not that. It's how he did it. It's as if he set things up to provide the greatest possible humiliation to an already cowed region. He waits until the last possible moment, then he sets up a nationally televised Lebron Show to announce that he's leaving, only letting his team know a half hour before. He draws it out for dramatic effect, for maximum media attention. It's like breaking up with someone from Oprah's couch. Not only am I leaving you, but I'm going to disgrace you in the process. It's as if he has only contempt for us.

But of course Lebron wasn't thinking about that. Lebron was only thinking about Lebron.

So like I said, it's not that he's leaving. It's that he could have left with grace, and instead he leaves with shame. If this were a movie, the entire audience would be rooting for the Cavs to take the title next year and for Lebron to have his comeuppance. But sadly, this is not a movie, and the underdog seldom wins. Real Life doesn't reward loyalty or grace, Real Life rewards talent alone. And he took it all with him.

Good riddance.