Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hiking and Roller Derbies: How could you go wrong?

A fun post for a change.  This past weekend I had the opportunity to go hiking with my church group and also to go with several of my friends to a roller derby.  The hiking I’ve done before—it was beautiful as always.

The roller derby, now that was something entirely different.

I am hopeless when it comes to sports: people have told me the rules of football at least four separate times and I forget them almost as soon as my very patient teachers stop speaking. I can’t even remember the rules to card games! So it should be no surprise that it took me the first half of the roller derby to get a general grasp on the rules. As far as I understand, the basic idea is that the one girl on each team who’s able to score gets points for lapping as many members of the opposing team as possible, and the opposing team’s one and only goal is to stop her from doing that.

There are rules, and there are helmets and padding involved, but I spent a good deal of time thinking it looked rather like women’s rugby on roller skates. We sat in the “danger seating”—on the floor right around the track, where we could be easily fallen upon, and even though we escaped without injury, our lives flashed before our eyes more than once over the course of the two-hour game.

The best part of the roller derby culture is that each player (and each ref too, actually) has a derby name the way a wrestler has a stage name. They’re all violent and often pun on the girls’ real names or on their profession—the girl whose name was Demolition Plan (and whose number was C4, just for kicks), for example, is an architect. Each name is unique and registered, like the names of racehorses. A lovely way to occupy yourself during a time out, in fact, is to ponder what your own derby name would be if you ever decided to take up the sport.

Not that I plan on doing that any time soon—I’ve seen enough of the inside of ERs for one lifetime, thank you very much. But I wouldn’t pass up the chance to go again! Though next time I might opt to sit in the NON-danger seating.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In Memoriam

(May 15, 1997 – June 1, 2011)

I didn’t think I’d have occasion to write again so soon—certainly not another post about a loss—but life’s that way sometimes. On Wednesday morning, my family had to make the difficult decision to put my beloved cat to sleep. She was a part of our family from the age of eight weeks to the very last minute of her fourteen years.

Upon the loss of her own cat several years ago, my sister wrote on her blog a very loving tribute to our dear tabby; it seems only fair that I leave Shenanigan with a little send-off as well.

So for those of you who knew of her but who never met my little tuxedo cat with the beauty mark (and that’s most of my friends, as she was a most unsociable feline), here is Shenanigan for you, in a few words.

Shenanigan knew her name. She thought it was “Nanny” because that’s what we settled on as a nickname (I named her on a whim as a high schooler; I take no blame for my fancy). She also responded to “Nanners” (my father’s nickname for her) and, on occasion, “Banana.” I think we only called her by her full name when she was in trouble, in which case she did what most sensible animals would do and hid under something inaccessible.

When we first got her from a shelter in Korea, she was a tiny, black, feral fuzzball who spent the first several days in our home hiding under my dresser and hissing at us as fiercely as a tiny, black, feral fuzzball can hiss. But she never bit, and she never scratched (at least not on purpose). Ever, in her entire life.

We always joked she was part Manx and part Siamese. Manx because her back legs were longer than her front, and Siamese because she was, bar-none, the most talkative cat I have ever encountered. She chirped, she meowed, she mewed, she shouted, she even growled like a dog. And she purred. There’s nothing like a purring cat to make you feel that all is right with the world.

She purred with particular vehemence when she was licking plastic bags. We never knew why she did this. I suppose everybody has their quirks and strange addictions. In fact, she took over an entire drawer in my long-suffering parents’ dresser, which she insisted on keeping well-stocked with plastic bags for her convenience. She would lie in the drawer and lick and purr and chatter at us, and if we neglected to pet her, she would often stop licking, fix us with a yellow-eyed stare, and yell.

She was an enormously picky eater but a pretty good mouser. I still shudder to recall the night when she jumped up in my bed with something slimy in her mouth that fell onto the floor and was not there in the morning when I dared to look for it.

Shenanigan hated strangers, dogs, vacuum cleaners, luggage, her cat carrier, and anybody who sneezed when she couldn’t see them. That often elicited a disapproving growl, which she could execute without actually stopping her purring. The few cat-sitters we imposed upon her never once saw her; our neighbors have joked that we just made her up, for all they’ve seen of her.

When she was very young, though she was never a lap cat, she would sleep draped across my neck—a slight problem given the fact that I am actually allergic to cats. When she got big enough that such a pose would have suffocated me, she took to sleeping in the crook of my knees (heaven forbid I should need to turn over—such things weren’t allowed). When I went to college, she took to sleeping under a tent made of blankets and pillows. If she didn’t get her tent, there was no peace in the house until her wishes were complied with. When it came to knowing exactly what she wanted, she was a very typical cat.

She used to like to climb up the inside of the louver doors on my closet and sit on top of them. She would either call to have me take her down or, if I didn’t move fast enough, she would fling herself all six feet to the floor and land with an adorable “Oof” sound. She never did lose her taste for high places even after we moved houses and lost the louver doors; she would look longingly at our closet shelves until somebody broke down and lifted her up onto one of them, obliging somebody else to take her down again when she got bored. (She was, by this point, beyond the age of six-foot leaps.)

Shenanigan was perhaps less affectionate than she was amusing, less domesticated than she was domineering. She was convinced she was royalty, and she was such a character—one minute every bit as dignified as her tuxedo coat would lead you to expect, the next minute doing something ridiculous like washing her stomach and then forgetting to put her tongue back in her mouth, sitting there with her hind leg sticking up in the air like a flagpole—we were all content to let her have her way. She was an imperious, neurotic, and demanding feline diva…and I will love her and miss her always.