The human mind has the remarkable capacity for avoiding thinking about the inevitable until the last possible moment. Having had a feline roommate for the past 11 years I must sheepishly admit I'm not smart enough to know whether the same ability applies for kitties as well.
Mr. Max had his annual physical and we both had our rabies shots updated (you can never be too careful). Actually the term "annual" isn't entirely accurate since Max was in earlier in the year for ailments that were diagnosed as involving his kidneys, liver, thyroid, and eyes. And he's arthritic on top of it all. Yes the aging teenage kitty is showing the affects of the many years. I kept putting off a return visit to the vet telling myself that perhaps that his many ailments were somehow temporary, and that he'd check out this time as perfectly healthy. Ah, not quite.
The most alarming news of this visit is that he has lost over two pounds over the course of the year. That's 22 percent of his overall weight for those of you scoring at home. And he's about half the weight he was in his heyday. Dr. Boynton said part of that weight loss could be attributed to his thyroid problem and thus he will soon go on medication to help address that condition. Of course nothing is free in life and the side effects of the drug Max is being prescribed (oh boy I get to "assist" him in taking two pills a day!) is that it might adversely affect his red blood cell count. This is particularly alarming in his case because his white blood cell count has been off the past few years anyway. Another potential side effect is that the thyroid problem might actually be helping the kidneys function and addressing one might have a detrimental affect on the other.
I have tried my best this past year to spoil the little guy knowing darn well that our time together might not be the forever that I had always hoped for. Still we haven't been able to spend as much time together as I really want to (one of us has to find the way to pay the bills) and that has more than kind of depressed me. But thankfully I had an enlightening discussion with a woman in the waiting area of the veterinary clinic that helped me gain some perspective on it all.
The woman sat scrunched up with a sad forlorn look in her eyes (that I tried hard not to reflect the same in my own eyes) revealing to me that her cat, Smoke, was in for what sounded suspiciously like Max's ailment: general and unusual lethargy and alarming loss of weight that the doctors had diagnosed was related to a malfunctioning thyroid commonly found in older cats. The woman told me she was taking time off from one of her two jobs and that the pile of bills was staring her in the face but she was going to do all she could for Smoke if only to spare the devastation her granddaughter was bound to feel when told of the cat's condition and ultimate prognosis.
She didn't need to tell me the rest I could just tell by the reaching tone of her voice- how Smoke was there with an expectant face every night after the longest day of work; how Smoke was there with a familiar greeting during the saddest of life's moments; how Smoke was there to help celebrate some of life's few true triumphs.
We wished each other the best.
What do you do when you are faced with your own imminent death? George Harrison's posthumous CD Brainwashed answers that particular question for one particular caring soul. The disc is full of songs that reaffirm George's belief that this life is but a transitionary stage for the greater something that is to come next. "Never been so crazy/But I've never felt so sure/I wish I had the answer to give/Don't even have the cure..." Harrison was well aware of the severity of the cancer eating away inside when he wrote most of these songs. While the disc is pretty typical of much of George's later post Beatle work, there is something really special in hearing the love and care put into the new songs released all these months after his death.
Two of my all time top thirty favorite songs are George Harrison songs- 1969's "Here Comes the Sun" and 1976's"Beautiful Girl." Both songs share similar traits- sterling guitar work, distinctive lyrics, and sublime singing. None of the work on Brainwashed (and by the way the cover art featuring some dummies watching TV is true to the underlying message of the songs) quite lives up to either one of those songs but it is nice to see how Harrison's own spiritual beliefs shared through his music grew over the years. His early 70's post Beatle work was dogged by the dogma and preachiness of the sermons that served as songs to enlighten those buying whatever Beatlesque stuff was put out. At the height of his popularity George released two of the most unlistenable LPs of all time- Living in the Material World and Dark Horse that weren't so much full of bad music as they were full of an excess of solemn excess. It's hard if not impossible to make it through either LP.
But thankfully he learned (from his dwindling fan base?) that he needed to show the positive aspects his faith provided more than he needed to preach to the unconverted (and non-believing). His late 70's work was full of peace and tranquillity and some of the best music of his career. Never a great singer he made do (and excellent) use of his voice while more and more featuring his terrific guitar (specifically slide guitar) playing. And the songs were full of contentment and humor- an important life lesson.
I me mine I say. Theologians have debated what exactly (if any) is my most endearing personal quality. One voice in the back (that sounded suspiciously like Emmanuel Lewis') said it is my sense of humor. I appreciated that and maybe it can even explain why if you are to pass me in the hallways these days you will likely be puzzled by the disturbing smile plastered on my noggin.
When Al Gore invented the Internet I'm sure little did he know the spiritual enlightenment it could provide for some. I for one never imagined a day where one could download otherwise unavailable music from sources located who knows where in this world. I've had a smile a mile wide plastered on my face the past few weeks because of this now taken for granted phenomenon- that weird still not sure what to do with it Internet. The first inducement was provided by our own Pat Wheeler who was kind enough to give me a copy he downloaded of one of the Bob Dylan Berkeley concerts I was lucky enough to attend last month. I can't stop listening to that night's version of the rockabilly "Summer Days" that features a bizarre and rollicking three way guitar battle that lifts the tune towards the heavens.
I also can't help but smile at something available on Dylan's official web site www.bobdylan.com a one off version of Harrison's most famous song "Something" performed recently by Bob at a Madison Square Garden show. Bob dedicates the song to George and then proceeds to positively croon the first few verses in a voice not ever heard before. Music in the ether- what a gas!
Someone said that proof of God's existence is the existence of humor within us. And from where I am I can believe that. The best thing in listening to Harrison's swan song is that despite being so related to his soul searching early 70's work his humor in the end comes so shining through. It may have been a mirage but he appears to have been somewhat at peace with himself, looking forward to whatever comes next (if anything at all). The best two tracks- the opener "Any Road" (featuring the hits all to close to home line- "If you don't know where you're going/Any road will take you there") and the Harold Arlen cover "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" featuring some sterling ukulele work(?!) are George at his best. The first two tracks sound like lost Traveling Wilbury's outtakes but that is OK by me. Yes it would be nice if more music was forthcoming- the sheer insight involved is so much needed- but Brainwashed is a fitting exclamation point to a wonderful lifetime's work.
The end result is a reminder that it is in our best interests to do stuff like cuddle with the nearest kitty- this isn't a bad time to be listening and alive and still kicking.