23 December 2006

R.I.P. Sorcha The Pretty Kitty

4 Home - 39 p.r.S.P.

Aloicious has informed us via e-mail that my cat Sorcha had to be put down a couple of days ago. She apparently was in such a state that both the animal control "expert" and the veterinarian, whom he had gone to for advice, both agreed that it seemed to be the best course of action. This seems very very sad to me and I will miss her lots.

Sorcha was adopted by myself, my room-mate Clyde* and my two sisters when we shared an apartment in Manchester, Conn in 1998/'99. One of my sisters' pet budgie had passed away during one of the severe winter cold snaps. She was distraught and wanted a new pet right away. My other sister enthusiastically signed on to the plan, but I was a bit hesitant--knowing that both had active social lives and probably wouldn't be around much past the initial adoption to feed and clean up after the animals.

Well, one day, they rushed off to the animal shelter--and suddenly we were the owners of not one, but two little kittens. One we called Astral and the other one, who promptly hid underneath the refridgerator--so much so that we had to tilt the 'fridge back to set her loose--I called "Sorcha" (which is Irish Gaelic for 'Sarah', I think). No particular reason, I just thought it was a cool name. She had a really beautiful coat, tortoise-shell black on her back, all-white underneath and raccoon-like black stripes all the way down her tail. She also had these piercing green eyes which shone out, especially in the dark. The two got on well, and even curled up next to each other to sleep.

We started to notice that while Sorcha began to grow, Astral wasn't. She also began to eat less and less. My sister and Clyde brought Astral to the vet and they were told that she had a genetic liver disease and wouldn't live too much longer, even with acostly operation designed to fight the disease. With heavy hearts, we decided to have her put down. One of my sisters interpreted it as a sign of some sort--but I just thought that Astral seemed to be unlucky, poor thing. Sorcha ended up becoming "my" cat on default, when, as I had suspected--nobody else seemed to have the time to care for her. I think she also bonded to me, because I was the one who had fed her and cleaned her litterbox from the beginning.

Eventually, both sisters elected to leave the apartment, for different reasons--and it was far too expensive for Clyde and I to stay there. We tried to rope in some possible room-mates, as the pad was really nice and we didn't want to leave. In the end we moved out into a smaller place just down the road--and Sorcha moved with us. She never the most sociable cat and when we would have visitors or parties, she would dart into my bedroom to hide until the commotion had settled. She did actually let my friend Cathy pet her one night while Cathy was visiting--a rare occurance indeed. I tired of living with Clyde over the course of the year-lease--he had been my room-mate for four years at that point and while I tried to be patient with him, he just seemed to me to be irresponsible with money and just a mess most of the time. Once again, the race for another room-mate was on--and again, it didn't pan out, so regrettably, I moved back into my folks' house in East Hartford. On the day we were leaving the apartment, we had almost finished packing everything into the moving van--when I noticed Sorcha was missing. Thinking that she had run out while we had the front door propped open, we searched out in the snow (it was January) and ice for over an hour. I really thought she had gone and became very upset--only to find that she had been hiding underneath my folded-up comforter. It was such a relief to find her, as I knew she wouldn't survive outside--being an indoor cat her whole life.

That year (2001 Gregorian), I moved three different times. I stayed at my folks' place for a few months, then moved into the attic space of a house in Hartford for the summer. That proved to be not to my liking and I moved out in a hurry in September, following some drastic events (September 11th being just one of them--it's a whole other story). I stayed at my sister and her boyfirends' apartment for a couple of weeks, then stayed with a co-worker, who's fiancee was generous enough to invite me to stay at their house for a bit. They lived in Ellington, about 20 minutes away from East Hartford, and it was nice to stay there and get my head together for a while--until his relatives needed a place to stay for Thanksgiving. It was back to the folks' for me, for the next three years, in fact.

Sorcha was a trooper though all of the moving--and adjusted to each new place quite quickly. In the house in Hartford, she was often my only companion. The parking there was almost non-existant, which left a lot of visitors hesitant to stop by. I spent the summer in the stifling heat, reading Terence McKenna books, watching taped episodes of Six Feet Under and listening to Cocteau Twins albums--waiting for it to get cool enough at night to fall asleep and watching Sorcha "chase" birds while she was looking out of the window. At my work-mate's house--she mainly had to stay in the guest room, where I was staying, because of their Great Dane, Ava. The same situation confronted her at the folks'--with their pit bull and Alsatian/Labrador cross both trying to play with her/chase her around the house. I remember a funny moment when Xena (the pit) got a bit too close and received a well-timed clip on the nose from Sorcha. It was great, too, because my father kept insisting on "his dogs" superiority to her.

Pixie and I "got together" officially in 2003 and I was considering moving over to the UK to be with her. My biggest move yet and naturally, I wanted to bring Sorcha along yet again. The main stumbling block to taking her over was Herbie, Pixie's black Labrador. We knew that Herbie and Sorcha wouldn't mix--so the solution seemed to be to either find someone in England who could take Sorcha in while Herb was still around (he's 11 now)--or see if someone in Conn. could take her in. We couldn't find anyone here and our options in Conn. dried up fairly quickly. Aloicious agreed to take Sorcha in for a while, because he thought that he would only have her for a year, tops. Well, a year turned into two...and almost three. Apparently, her behaviour deteriorated over time and she seemed to become a nuisance, urinating on his clothes and futon. He sent me several e-mails stating that we either take her away from him or he would take her to a shelter. Eventually I had to agree to have her brought to a shelter--but Aloicious was even having trouble booking her into one. That was the last I heard before this latest message.

I suppose I feel like I let her down in a way--that I should have tried harder to get her a temporary home here--but there was also the cost of the flight and for the quarantine. There are also the stringent Defra pet importing rules that would need to be followed and she still had nowhere to stay here, even after the six-month quarantine. I also knew that she only would have a limited amount of time to stay with my brother. It was agonising not being able to do anything but sit and wait. I suppose it was probably for the best in the end, especially if her mental state had deteriorated to the point where the only option was to put her down. I'll miss you, Sorcha and I hope you're free and happy now.

*name changed for the sheer hell of it

Cross-posted at Demon Squad Local #77

21 December 2006

Log Cabin Home In The Shire

21 Demeter - 85 p.s.U.

It's an official six months since we began this here blog. It's the Winter Solstice for this Gregorian year. There wasn't much sunlight to be seen anyway, as most of England has been gripped in a chilly fog for the past couple of days--making the shortest day of the year seem even shorter.

Pixie and I have been getting ready for the annual Yuletide celebrations--going through the usual rigamarole, shopping for gifts (made slightly easier by IntraWeb purchasing), writing out cards and sending them...and drinking mead (for me) and mulled wine (for her).

Mighty cheers out to Singing Bear for the small pack of groovy CDs he sent--especially the Load Of Old Bollocks mix disc--a compendium of guilty pleasures ranging from Chicory Tip (dig that synth line!) to Barry White and even Golden Earring's Radar Love (with that ultra-catchy bass riff)..rock on, brother!

Another round of "Thank You"s go out to all of our friends and family who sent cards and gifts. It's nice to know that you're being thought of, even when you're downloading Samla Mammas Manna and Wigwam albums and can't be arsed to even shoot off a quick e-mail to say "Hello". It means a lot to us.

I discovered a very cool thing last week. It looks like Robert Anton Wilson has started up a blog. He's still recovering from his illness and has some time to post. You can check it out here--I've been frequenting there quite a bit lately, just to check to see when Bob drops a new post. Some members of the Maybe Logic Academy (founded mostly by R.A.W.himself) have started up a blog as well (ed. note - It actually started last year - I've just been slow to catch on--as usual). You kinda have to have some knowledge of Wilson's books and interests to "get" the posts--but it's a hoot nonetheless. The M.L.A. blog, called Only Maybe, can be found here.

...and finally--it's a Yuletide message from ol' Aloicious P. McGinnis himself--to all of you:

"I wish you all very Merry (Happy) Christmas, and a Happy New Year. FelizNavidad, Buono Natale, Joyeux Noel, frohe Weihnachten ! I hope that in the New Year that you achieve the goals you have set for yourself, and that you get to spend as much time as you want with your families and friends. Enjoy the Holidays, and the New Year brings new challenges and new goals for you all !!! Cheers"

Amen. Happy Solstice Everyone!

10 December 2006

Vashti Bunyan/Goldrush - The Zodiac, Oxford - December 9, 2006 (Greg.)

19 Azar - Year 1385

Our first gig at the Zodiac since it was sold to the Carling (tm) chain last month, featured a couple of hometown heroes.

Vashti Bunyan, the underground psych-folkie who was briefly part of the Incredible String Band's late-60s commune, is originally from Oxford. She released one largely-ignored (at the time) record, Just Another Diamond Day, in 1970--and then disappeared for twenty-odd years. The album was 're-discovered' by nu-folk vanguards Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom and The Coco Rosie--who started name-dropping Bunyan and even got her to perform a few 'comeback' shows. This led to her long-belated follow-up to "Diamond Day", Lookaftering (featuring Banhart and Newsom)--which was released last year. This would be her first Oxford gig since the mid-60s. Goldrush have been Oxford scenesters for awhile now and have had some UK-wide attention. They are also founders of local label, Truck Records, which puts on a nice festival every summertime--sorta the indie-kids' version of Cropredy. They've always been O-town runners-up to Supergrass and Radiohead--and it seems they should be more well-known than they are. They seem a bit of a mix between The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and Neil Young--with lead singer/rhythm guitarist Robin Bennett's vocals sounding more than a little like the Lips' Wayne Coyne, which ain't a bad thing, to me anyway. Apparently, a while back, his vocals owed a debt to Super Furry Animals mainman Gruff Rhys.

The first sign of "meet the new boss" came when Pixie's handbag was searched as we were entering the venue. She said that only happened once before--and I've never seen it happen since I've been attending gigs with her there. A real W.T.F.???!! moment happened as we entered the upper hall. There were four or five tables set up, with flowers and candles--as if we were in a bleedin' restaurant!! Some punters were already sitting at the tables--and people in front of the tables were sitting on the grubby floor so as not to block the view. I hope this development was only for this gig, in anticipation of an older crowd--otherwise it will seem a shame and may cause a 'haves and have-nots' feeling amongst the crowds. Oh yeah--hope you didn't enjoy Boddington's ale that much--'cos it's gone and been replaced with Carling brand.

KTB, a Truck-sponsored act were up first--and I wasn't too impressed. It was that same-ol'-same-ol' folkie singer-songwriter stuff you've heard so many times before, only it's done much better by people like Eliza Carthy, Kate Rusby and a million others you can think of. The lead singer even finished the set with a song with "willow tree" in the title--seriously, that should be banned from use as it seems to be a painful English folk cliche to me. The back-up vocals were handled by a couple of her mates--who were reading the lyrics from a notebook--and this is meant to be KTB's 'new single'..right. The Epstein were up next and their set was more enjoyable--though it seems Carling hasn't invested in a new sound system--'cos the mix still sounds shit for a louder band. The Epstein play a country/indie-rock synthesis similar to Goldrush's and it easy to see why they made the bill. They even have a guy playing electric banjo--I was hoping he was going to bust into some sort of Hendrix-inspired feedbacked banjo solo...but no. Still, we were treated to a quick set and apparently, it was the drummer's final gig with the group and I suspect he's of Russian descent because they finished with him vocalizing a Russian waltz--one of the guitarists oom-pah-ing away on a melodica.

Vashti took the stage after a 20-minute intermission, to the raucous applause of the crowd. She was joined by her 4-piece backing band, including a cello player and violin player. She can still hit all the notes perfectly--and she exuded a shy stage presence with her hippie-dippy charm intact. The "hits" were out of the way early in the set--with Just Another Diamond Day and her psych-folk gem Winter Is Blue following each other as the second and third tunes she played. A couple of newer ones were next, from "Lookaftering"--then another from "Diamond Day"--and that was all. She scurried offstage, smiling and looking like she enjoyed herself, basking in the applause.

Goldrush appeared after a few minutes and fired off a short preview set of all-new material from their forthcoming new one, The Heart Is The Place (due out in February, according to Robin). Going by what I heard, the Rev and Lips influence seems quite strong--though on one of the tunes, they managed to rock out a Neil Young-esque jam for the coda. Robin announced the song I'm Not A Machine as his "Woody Guthrie tune" and 24 definitely had a Mercury Rev-like sombre feel to it. There was also an unintentionally funny moment as John Bennett's keyboard stand collapsed and he finished the tune kneeling on the stage, sheepishly looking over at the rest of the group. Robin said "How come that didn't happen during Vashti Bunyan?" Karma, dude....just joking....maybe. They finished with just John and Robin, playing a semi-acoustic tune.

It was then announced that Vashti would be back on stage with her two friends, Jenny Lewis and Angela Strange. They performed in the early-to-mid 60s as The Three Of Us. The three duly filed out, took their seats and performed a close-harmony folk set that included Bunyan's early songwriting efforts and a cover of the Everly Brothers' Dream. This time Goldrush were their backing band and they did a nice job--playing with subtlety and grace--it was perfect for the trio's material. If only the crowd were quieter--especially during "Dream"--I almost thought I was at Brookes Uni., with the loud, annoying student crowds.

A good gig, and despite the (relatively small) annoyances--one worthy of attendance, especially for the chance to see another 60s survivor like Bunyan. The fact that she was so reclusive for so long makes it even more poignant. Hopefully she'll want to play some more shows, based on the positive response she received from the crows.

We may have to go back to see Goldrush, if they play an album launch show in February. Let's hope they've got a better keyboard stand next time.