WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?                                                 Steve Dresselhaus

Word of caution: please don’t take this post too seriously.  Some readers have expressed concern for my well being after reading it.  Thanks for your concern but try to read this post and laugh – a lot.  The photo above was posed yesterday.    I am fine, I really am. 


I’m  sitting in my recliner looking out my living room window. The tune going through my head is the old Hee Haw song that goes “Gloom, despair, and agony on me.  Deep dark depression, excessive misery.  If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all.  Gloom, despair, and agony on me.”(CLICK HERE)  It is just a few days till Christmas.  It is cold, cloudy, gloomy.  Sleet is starting to pelt my bay window.   To my right is a Christmas tree which used to be alive but which  was savagely murdered in a vain attempt at bringing  festive cheer to my dreary suburban life.   All I  can see are several trillion  evergreen needles falling to the carpet and becoming one with it,  rendering my Dyson vacuum cleaner no more  useful  than a razor at a  Robertson clan family reunion.     I paid $35 for the tree and will have to pay my garbage service $25 to haul its needleless skeleton away.     Now, I am unhappy.  I couldn’t muster a smile on my face even were I  to  star  in a beer commercial  while surrounded by all kinds of beautiful people who always appear to be the happiest people on Earth.   I am not a Hindu nor a  Buddhist,  so  neither karma nor reincarnation can explain my fate.  I am not Catholic, so guilt and  vengeful  divine retribution are not   major players in my life.  That I have a Christmas tree proves my joylessness is not from following the mirthless,  miserable rules of Charles Taze Russell.   I peer into the depths of my mind, deep, deep into my soul,  and remember that it was not always thus.  How has my life become so vanilla in a multi-flavored world?   How and why did I ever succumb to the soul-numbing comfort, the  prosperity-induced lethargy , and the joy-retarding  life  of America’s middle class suburbia?

It has not always been like this. I used to laugh and smile.  Life was a 24/7 adventure.    I used to be a missionary in Baja, Mexico.  I was happy, cheerful, optimistic and braver than all of the super heroes rolled into one.    I was a courageous and fearless rescuer of lives and souls.  No person was so bad I would not attempt a rescue.  No damsel in distress  was ever so enmeshed in trials that I would not go out of my way to save her.  No person was ever so lost that I would give up on him or her without a major fight.   Back then,  I could have worn a cool mask and a cape flapping in the wind and it  would  not have been out of place. People would have understood, approved, applauded and cheered.     Back then  I was SBMM (Super Brave Missionary Man).

Now I live in the town of Wheaton, Illinois, one of Chicago’s wealthy, safe suburbs.  I live in the town of the Immaculate Conception – everyone here was born without sin.   No one here has ever done anything wrong.  The town is perfect.  Lake Woebegone’s  above average kids recede back to mere mediocrity and   are left in the dust by the  perfect youth of Wheaton.   Here, every kid is on the honor roll.  Every kid is on a varsity sports team while simultaneously  enrolled in a full load of AP classes.   Every child does volunteer work.  All kids go on missions trips to Third World countries.   Wheaton, I’m convinced,   was the seed idea and eventual model  for the Truman Show.  People here come to a complete stop at stop signs.  They never honk.  Road rage, if it happens to exist, which I doubt,  is expressed with courteous smiles.    Graffiti, at its worst, consists of  eco-friendly chalk-drawn hopscotch squares on the sidewalk.  Crime is nonexistent.  I have a neighbor who  once jaywalked in down town Wheaton.   A week later with deep shame, conviction and remorse, he turned himself in to the cops.  Being Wheaton’s only fugitive and living on the lam was not the life for him.  His wife was embarrassed to see his photo on the wall at Wheaton’s post office.

Now, in my current life, adventure, risk and fun are but distant memories  fading as rapidly as  the possibility of me ever getting  back  to a 32-inch waist.    I live in a culture where  comfort is the highest aspiration  and where risk aversion is the religion.  Kids wear helmets in their strollers (I AM NOT JOKING).  In Wheaton it is considered  daring to try an imported tea.  Wearing  Sperry Topsiders  without socks could get you honorably inducted into the Wheaton Adventure Society.   Watching the Fourth of July fireworks without safety goggles is considered high risk and worthy of a feature article in National Geographic.     In my former life as SBMM, kayaking  in the Sea of Cortez was how I spent my free days  and how I sought non-work related adventure.  Now I attempt to get the adrenalin coursing through my body by  mowing my suburban  lawn and going mano to mano with dandelions.   In my former life I  used  to listen  to the  phwoooh sound of  exhaling whales as I ventured off-shore in my kayak.  Now I listen for the sound of the sump pump in my basement cycling on, indicating that my life will not be disrupted by a soggy carpet and ruined cardboard boxes filled with stuff I can’t use but can’t throw away:  the stuff which I think I’ll need the second I throw it away but since I won’t throw it away I’ll never need.

Back then when I was a practicing SBMM,  on my days off, after returning to shore I would pack up my family and head out to a desert canyon up in the rugged hills minutes from our house.    I would grill meat on an open fire, using  locally gathered firewood , coyotes yipping in the near distance, a billion stars appearing overhead as the desert night air cooled to jacket-requiring temperatures.   Dried cholla cactus, mesquite  and pin oak logs would make a hot, smoke- free fire and the ensuing perfect bed  of natural coals on which to cook the steaks, chicken or whatever was on the menu that night.  After  eating, we  would with our other  SBMM friends and families,  drink hot chocolate made with milk and real chocolate and with TED-Talk-intellect discuss philosophy, international politics and  religion  while  our kids played in the desert  or made S’mores on the  glowing  red coals.

In an attempt to recapture my SBMM days, I still do cookouts.   Mesquite and cholla are not available to me here in the Midwest, so I have adopted the local customs.  Now I use charcoal shapes that look like children’s building blocks with  OSHA approved  rounded safety  edges which prevent them from being properly  stacked.  The idea is to get as many of them burning at once as possible.  This is a complicated process which involves vainly attempting to stack the rounded shapes,  then using whatever is available to blow on them once there is even a scintilla of imagined  warmth in them. In the suburbs we use lighter fluid to get the factory-made charcoal semi-squares to light.  The secret is to find the exact amount to use.  Too little does nothing but frustrate by being almost enough.  Too much, which always turns out to be the only amount that really works, leaves your burgers smelling and tasting like a BP oil spill in the Gulf.   If and when you get a flame, that flickering mini-monument of hope,  Frisbees, Tupperware lids, serving trays, my kid’s snow saucer , anything that is sturdy, thin and waveable  can be used to fan the flame to maturity.  This past summer in a stroke of genius I hauled out my leaf blower and used it to fan the charcoal into flame.  My son said it was starting to look like a YouTube moment as he ran for his camera,  but it did work.

When the charcoal is eventually lit I move on to other cookout related activities;  things  like picking off those  pesky bits of paper stuck to the half thawed,  gray colored, prefabricated burgers I will put on the backyard grill  in between mosquito bites. Somewhere along the way, once the burgers are on the grill,  I will decide that the coals need to be fanned a wee bit more.   This usually results in a flare-up of the fire, which I will then have to douse in order to keep it  from immolating the burgers like a Thai monk.  The breeze generated by the superfluous fanning  produces  small tornadoes  causing uncountable bits of ash to adhere instantly and permanently  to the burgers.   As the burgers  cook, and just prior to them  turning into anthracite,  I  have to  run back into the house to get a large forgotten  plate on which to  place them once they are totally carbonized.   Just before taking the patties,  which by this time have  become  virtually indistinguishable from the fuel underneath them and shrunk to the size of dimes,  off the grill,  I  put squares of factory made cheese on some of them and watch the corners of the cheese melt and drip into the bed of powdery  coals.  When enough cheese has sloughed off  the meat and into the coals I take the patties off the grill.

Eventually we get around to eating; but  instead of sitting with my friends next to a campfire which casts flickering shadows on the rocky walls of the narrow canyon in which we would have our cookouts, I  now sit on the back yard deck  and watch the neighbors over  on their back yard deck  as they watch me on mine.  Watching my neighbors watch me is kind of like looking into a mirror when there is a mirror behind  you – the reflections are infinite.    Just like back in Mexico during the SBMM days we sip  hot chocolate,  although what we are drinking here in the suburbs is a watery  chemical mix from Monsanto  or Dow that comes out of an envelope and is stirred into hot water.  The brand is Swiss Miss–which certainly  has nothing to do with Switzerland, but the miss part is accurate.   Some of the chemical packets actually  contain desiccated,  petrified marshmallow bits in them, which when rehydrated feel like bits of under-the-fridge-lint which taste like they feel.   The kids, instead of gazing dreamily into the fire, making S’mores, or building forts in the desert, stare  blankly at their phones, ear buds in place, drips of spittle drooling from the corners  of their half-open mouths and, like cud-chewing cows, occasionally lifting their heads to emptily  look around them before vacuously returning to their device and getting reabsorbed by what  some marketing genius has pawned off as entertainment.     If we have adult guests over, we talk about sitcoms or complain about how liberals are taking over the country.

In my former superhero role as SBMM,  the sea kayaking I did was actually a major part of my work, not just something I did on my days off.   I counseled a lot of drug addicts, couples with messed-up marriages, and countless lost souls seeking help, all the while paddling gently along in the remote, wild, unspoiled beauty of the  Sea of Cortez.    Expeditions, open ocean paddling,  accompanying whales and dolphins, and exploring sea caves used to be my life.  Now in Wheaton  as I  sit in my  recliner and  look out at my dreary world, I wonder where my former life went.   The smile muscles in my face have atrophied,  leaving me  nothing but phantom pains.    I have become my worst fear.  I am  just one more piece  of middle-aged,   middle-class mediocrity muddling through life  in Middle America.   I am Joe Backyard.   “Gloom, despair, and agony on me.  Deep dark……”



My beautiful picture

The author about the time he started attending boarding school

                            THE HURDLES AND HOOPS OF BECOMING A MAN                             Steve Dresselhaus

For some mysterious  reason which still baffles modern science,  there is a point in human development at which each  human male must prove to himself and  to anyone who is watching that he is the toughest, baddest ,  and coolest individual life form  ever to walk this  planet.  This life phase is what scientists  have termed profundus stupidus maximus (PSM) .  Fortunately, this period  of a guy’s life is of limited duration,  starting  in the earliest stages of toddlerhood  and ending at what is commonly  termed  late assisted living.    Human females  have their own  condition  called chronic moodius erraticus maximus  which corresponds roughly  in length  to that of a male PSM,   but since I am married to one of them and I consider life to be sacred and  precious I will not develop this point publicly at this time.

One of the  best environments  in  which to  observe PSM for research purposes  is  a boarding school  where a bunch of boys are glommed together in what is essentially a permanent sleepover sans parental oversight.  Sure, there were dorm parents vainly attempting  to keep track of  35 boys  simultaneously,  but it  was like controlling hooligans at a British soccer match.   I never did discover what the dorm parents had done or not done to merit  such  a banishment, but like Napolean on St. Helena,  or St. John the Apostle  in lonely exile on the island of Patmos,  there they were at  this remote outpost of pre-civilization.    My boarding school was the Siberian Gulag of missionary assignments.  Whatever the dorm parents had done  must have been really, really bad.

My school,  high in the Andean mountains of Venezuela,  was the inspirational source of the  Burning Man Festival  which,  in a bit of little known historical trivia,  was   relocated from my school  to the  Nevada desert about thirty years ago.*   My dorm was the birthplace for  exceptionally novel  and boundary-testing deportment , exotic traditions  and science fiction level  behavioral creativity.  Every day came with an  inviolable mandate for each boy to be the toughest, weirdest,  most radical  kid around.   Margaret Meade would have served humanity better by having chosen my school over the Samoan Islands as her choice for fieldwork.

Amongst the boys, the status quo was feared far more than death and was something from which to flee and from which to hide.   The status quo was  to ego what the Black Plague was to medieval  life and culture.  It was  masculinity’s apocalypse.   Every day provided psychologists  with an overflowing  cornucopia of exotic behaviors  to study, all of them  concentrated into one small , easy to isolate location.  Not every boy behaved like the spawn of Beelzebub.   There was always the good kid, the teacher’s pet, the kid who always made his bed neatly and who was unwaveringly and milktoastianly compliant with all the rules and regulations.  Like a pudgy  American house dog waiting for food spills in the kitchen,  these boys hung around the school’s staff  looking for new  rules to obey.  These were  the boys  who, when they grew up, settled into American  suburbia and became the  “White and Nerdy” models  for Weird Al Yankovich.   Their obituaries will someday be four lines long:  name,   dates,  survived by______, and  “volunteered at the local library.”

Every culture,  whether it be a tribal group in the Amazon jungles of Brazil,  Eskimos  in the northern tundra or a boarding school in Venezuela,  has its own time of testing–its own  rites of passage into manhood.  Some tribal groups will make the candidate for manhood  live by himself on a mountain plateau for thirty days of deprivation, surviving on his wits and whatever he happens to find to eat and drink.  In some cultures, young men must kill a lion or a buffalo or some other fearsome  beast bigger and more dangerous than themselves, using nothing but their hands, teeth and a rock or two.  In America, manhood is achieved  through attaining the highest score in a video game or by drinking multiple  consecutive 7 Eleven Big Gulps.  At my Andean boarding school,  manhood was  attained  through   a non-standardized series of pre-approved  behaviors,   most of which inflicted   pain and  included self torture and  the exercising of  various  high risk activities.  While the rites of passage were not formally scripted  or officially assigned, and all were  individualized,   there was  a common  core through which each boy had to pass.  Just like in  Olympic figure skating  in which there is a formula by which a  spectacular  performance can lead to a gold medal , there was a  boy-to-man  formula in my dorm.  The formula for figure skating   is a witches’ brew that includes compulsories, artistic  impression, and moves like axels and oil changes, which, when multiplied by the technical difficulty minus the temperature of the ice and the  bribes paid to Russian judges, all tally up to the winning score.   Each route to manhood, while it did have the compulsories,   ended up being as unique as a snowflake.   Right now  I’m wondering why I am comparing figure skating with the road to  manhood since the two concepts are oxymoronic and incompatible beyond any conceivable reconciliation.

One of the first tests to accomplish on the road to manhood usually occurred around third grade, when we boys would sneak into the dorm parents’ room late at night and touch the sleeping  threats to our existence.  Like slithering  pythons in tall grass,  we would  silently sneak  into their room, always taking a witness to verify the deed.  This usually  occurred without mishap, although there were known occasions when the hibernating dorm father/bear/beast  would startle and seem to wake up.  The candidate for manhood would drop to the floor and, like  a rabbit seeking invisibility  from a hungry coyote,   remain motionless, petrified with fear, praying desperately to God,   pleading  first for immediate forgiveness  for the still-in-progress, yet-to-be completed  misdeed,  and then secondly  for protection from the vengeful creature known as the  irate dorm father.   Our theology at that early stage in our lives was not too well developed and was more karmic than Christian, more fear-based than grace-based, and more about divine retribution than loving forgiveness.   Living in an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country as we did,  our desperate  prayers of confession were motivated by the fear of being taken from this planet,  as they say in Spanish, “inconfesado”  (unconfessed).    I don’t recall any of us ever getting caught by the dorm parents, but none of us wanted to be the first.

A second common trial  endured while on the road to manhood was known as  the “sticking-your-finger in-hot-water test.”    In this test we would, like the name implies, stick our finger, almost always the pinky,  in hot water and see who could endure the pain the longest.  Clearly, the longer the finger remain immersed, the more manly the candidate.   The water we used was hot, very hot.  Sticking our fingers into the cup of hot water was  like Dr. Robert Ballard inserting his thermal  probes into the volcanic  vents in the spreading zone of the mid-Atlantic ridge.    Since we were all the poor children of poor missionaries, we had no  expensive instrumentation with which to measure the temperature of the water, nor did we have any  elaborate time pieces to record immersion times .  Records were not kept, and our lack of proper instrumentation  most likely precluded uniformity in testing, but we did what we could and via consensus would determine if the candidate had suffered enough to meet our entrance requirements.  For keeping time,  we used the  time- and tradition-proven  method of chanting  in unison, “one Mississippi, two Mississippi.”   I do wonder how  ancient peoples kept time prior to the discovery of the “New World” and our mighty river.  I have a hard time picturing a bunch of bearded, long robed Mesopotamians  at the hippodrome  timing the racing horses by chanting out  “One Euphrates, two Euphrates.”   Or worse yet, imagine if Columbus had discovered New Zealand first and we had to keep track of time the Kiwi way by chanting  “One Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu.”

A third test of manhood was an adaptation of the Northern Mexican torture of burying a person up to his neck  next to an ant hill and then pouring honey on his head.  In our case the test was to plant both feet firmly into an ant hill, the home  to several hundred trillion red army ants, and then seeing how far up our legs we would permit  the ants to crawl prior to running away and swatting the little carnivores from our bodies.  We would stomp our feet into the ant hill and then watch as the minuscule but well-armed and now enraged defenders would work their way over the canvas tennis shoes, up the socks and then onto our legs.  As soon as the ants crossed the sock to leg barrier the stinging would start.  No individual sting was unbearable; but the cumulative effect of many stings was not an event to be enjoyed.  When we had endured enough, we would begin a frenetic below the waist Macarena,  swatting the stinging, advancing hordes off our legs.  This was accompanied by running away and stomping our feet hard on the ground in an attempt to dislodge the invading horde.   Since allergies to insect stings had not yet been invented  by the  American Medical Association, we had no  concerns beyond the immediate pain.

By everyone’s standards but my wife’s, I have now successfully transitioned from boy to man, but the self-torture continues.  Now instead of touching sleeping dorm parents, I confront  angry clients and credit scores.   Now instead of sticking my finger in hot water, I answer my office telephone, an experience not quite the same but far more emotionally damaging.  Now instead of standing as long as possible in the ant hill, I endure my office for unending hours.  All things considered and given the option, I would go back to the ant hills.

*I would advise against using this bit of historic trivia in anything that involves money, law or the necessity of unwavering truth since I may have been a bit creatively fuzzy on the details of this point.




Steve Dresselhaus

Somewhere in my distant past a  college  professor of biology,  or was it  anthropology  or could  it  have  been psychology? ,  informed  the class that what separates man from animals–making us a unique, special  and very distinct life form–was the ability to use tools.  Or was it the opposable thumb that sets us apart, making us a unique and special life form on planet Earth?   Did I just commit an act of insensitive specism  which will get me in trouble with the PC crowd by assuming human exceptionalism?   If you choose to believe you are on an equal plane with, say, a sewer living river rat, I apologize for my insensitivity and desire you nothing but success in both your current incarnation and the  next three or four to follow.  Regardless of any specism of which I may be guilty,  the ability to use tools is what this story is about.  Of course, one must define what a tool is and when something becomes one.  For instance, is a seagull dropping a clam on a rock using the rock as a tool?   Is a beaver dam a tool to improve the quality of life for  the brotherhood of  beaverdom?  Is using a barn in which to build a nest manipulating  the barn  by making it  a tool for the comfort and well-being of barn swallows?  Can one life form use another life form as its tool?  Ah, now that is a question for today’s philosophers to ponder.  Of course, if the seagull, beaver and barn swallow are using tools, by my professor’s definition  these creatures would be equal to humans.

In this story, I am the human, and the tool I used was a black Lab:  an overweight, under exercised eating machine named Cleo.  She was the gentlest, kindest, most loving quadruped ever to grace this planet.   Had she been bipedal she would have been a  Mother Theresa or a Mahatma Gandhi or St. Francis of Assisi.  She did have her flaws.   She was too lazy to bark and the emotion of anger was something that was beyond her willingness or ability to conjure up,  making her singularly and spectacularly useless as a watch dog.   She shed fur like Miley Cyrus sheds decency and she stank like a buzzard’s road kill buffet.  But she sure was a kind, loving  ol’ pooch.  She was an 80-pound,  fur-clad  bundle of love.

Cleo became my  tool one evening when a stray tomcat entered our kitchen.  My family lived in La Paz, Mexico where my wife and I worked as missionaries who gathered  newly transformed Jesus-followers into  self-sustaining fellowships.  Because of the benign  climate of the Sonoran desert in Baja, doors and windows were often left open.  Our kitchen, designed  in some kind of architectural project gone awry by a student flunking out of college, had a door that opened directly onto the back yard.   This became the portal  through which the big black cat entered my kitchen and my life.

I don’t remember who discovered the cat – my wife, one of the kids or I.  All I remember was  this big, black behemoth of a cat  in our kitchen.  The quasi-lion sat there surveying his newly claimed territory, disdainfully challenging  us mere humans to evict him.   The instant we saw him we could see the  rabies, distemper and who knows what else boiling,  roiling and  surging through his body,  yearning to make the leap from his to ours .   His evil, hate-filled eyes stared contemptuously at me.  The deep rumble in his throat, a grumbling,  rumbling 9.5 Richter feline growl  from Hell quickened my pulse and compelled  me towards  battle.   In his top-of-the-food-chain  mindset he was clearly and indubitably the regent and I a mere serf, a vassal set in place to do his bidding.  This could not go on.   My honor was at stake and  I had to reclaim the kitchen if I was going to retain the respect of my family. Fight or flight?  “Damn the torpedos.  Full speed ahead!”  It was battle  time.  It was a fight to the finish and there would only be one creature standing at the conclusion of this fight to the death.

“Shoo.  Shoo.  Go away.“  This, the opening salvo of my attack,   proved to be an ineffective agent for feline expulsion.  My words, threatening though they be,  failed to faze the furry demon who  just sat there,  as unmoved  as if I’d said nothing more  threatening to him than “Shoo, Shoo. Go away.”  His angry, hate-filled  eyes continued boring into my soul with an arrogant, knowing  superiority.  He mocked me.  He scorned me.  He belittled me in front of my family.  Like a plump juicy grape in the Mojave sunshine my male ego shriveled away, becoming  nothing more than a distant and pitiful little memory.

It was then that the inspirational words of my college prof came back to me.  “What separates man from animals is the ability to use tools.”  Suddenly,  and for the first time in my life, my college education became worth the time, effort and money I had invested in acquiring it.  I now had an opportunity to use what I had learned.   I needed  a tool,  something to use, something outside myself, something  that would leverage my  limited power into something greater, bigger and more powerful than that of the  monster before me.  Cleo! Yes, Cleo!  She was my answer.  She was the tool to rid my kitchen of the cat.  Dogs hate cats and the feeling is reciprocated.  As a general rule, dogs are bigger than cats, although Chihuahuas do ruin the norm somewhat, assuming of course that Chihuahuas are  indeed dogs and not some maliciously engineered  mutant rat in canine disguise.

I introduced Cleo into the kitchen.   For a nanosecond  time ceased to exist  as dog eye met cat eye.  It was that  moment of stillness between tides.  It was the calm before the storm.  It was that silence-filled moment when opposing generals, facing each other across the open field, have their arms held high, swords grasped tightly in hand,  pausing before yelling “Charge!”  Then, suddenly,  fusion or fission or some other  yet-to-be named source of limitless power and energy  burst into existence.  Future astronomers on distant galaxies will  look back at this moment and call it  the Cataclysmic Cleophany.  Not since the discovery by Nicolas Big and Horatio Bang of the theory which now bears their name has such a  massive release of energy been contemplated in theory,  or as in this case,   observed directly.

In mammalian, reptilian, piscine   and avian physiology, flight or fight are the natural responses engendered  by perceived threat.     In this instance fight and flight became one, and its progeny  was a mess for which my wife has yet to forgive me.  Cleo, for the first time in her life, experienced a momentary  awakening of the latent wolf gene buried deep within her; she  wanted to fight while the cat chose flight.  In the flight mode muscles instantly tense and contract,  ready to spring into action. The guitar string tautness of the muscles prepares them for an instant release of energy allowing  the animal to run faster, jump higher or fight harder.  Most muscles tense up but not all.  Certain muscles, namely sphincter-type muscles, relax under stress.    Cats have sphincter muscles.  As Cleo’s eyes made contact with the cat’s eyes everything went to hyperspeed.  The cat, in a velocity bordering on that of light, began to run around the kitchen, leaping from counter to cupboard to fridge.  The process was repeated faster and faster.  Like stunt  motorcyclists  in spherical cage the cat seem to  defy gravity  as his centrifugal  force allowed him to run around the walls perpendicular to the floor.  It was at this point that the cat remembered that sphincter muscles relax under stress.    A misty, moist, malodorous  London fog  was atomized into the room.   The tom cat sprayed our entire  kitchen as effectively as any  south Florida mosquito abatement  fumigation airplane ever covered a Floridian swamp.   Male cat urine is particularly pungent.  It is  unlikely that our kitchen will ever be the same.

The inertia of plates in the drying rack, pitchers on top of the fridge and decorative  wall hangings  were no match for the kinetic energy being released by the  black furry bullet-like cat.  The specific density of flatware is less than that of a hard tile floor, meaning that when plate and floor made contact, the floor won.  As our kitchen floor began to fill with  the shredded, shattered shards of plates, cups and pitchers,  Cleo became the perfect caricature of a cartoon creature.  Her claws, designed for digging and outdoor traction on rough ground, failed to gain a purchase on the slick tile floor.  Like Wile E. Coyote, her legs pinwheeled at great speed propelling her absolutely nowhere.  I believe Cleo to be the source idea for Paul Simon’s hit song “Slip sliding away,  you know the nearer your destination the more you slip slide away.”

Shortly before the cat in the kitchen escapade, I had scored some major spousal reward points with my wife by having had brand new  custom kitchen cupboards  installed.  I was still reaping the rewards from my  kitchen cupboard coup.   Marriage  was really good and getting better.  Then the cat entered my life. It was then that I made the horrendously inappropriate choice of letting a dog do a man’s job.  I turned to Cleo as my tool of choice to rid my kitchen of the emissary from Hell, that evil harbinger of horror in my home.  As the cat sped around the kitchen leaping from cabinet to cabinet and counter to counter in the fight for his life,  it made no difference to him that our cupboards were brand new and quite pretty.  Claws met wood.  Claws scratched wood.  Claws gouged wood.   The running, clawing, urinating cat redecorated our kitchen.  It was his claw marks on our new cabinets which became  the inspiration for  the trade mark logo for  Monster’s energy drink.

Cleo has now gone on to wherever good  dogs go when their time on this planet comes to an end.  We have moved out of our house in Mexico and now live in the US.  However, the claw marks of the cat still scar my soul as surely as they still scar the cabinets in Mexico.  My marriage survived,  and  my kids still respect me, but the gouges to my ego will never heal.  The cat?   When he was satisfied that he had ruined my kitchen and my life as much as possible,  he ran out the open kitchen door, up a tree and then jumped across the wall to the neighbor’s yard–leaving only a wretched memory in my shattered psyche.  I’m  reasonably confident that unless he had a feline version of a deathbed conversion,  he is not where Cleo is and that his abode has become a new  tenth ring in Dante’s inferno.