THE CAT WHO THOUGHT HE WAS SAINT NICK

We called him GM because generally his motor was running. He was a big cat, pun’kin and white (the image above isn’t him, but it’s not super far off), and an outdoor cat because my brother, his nominal master, didn’t clean the litter box as often as our mother’s nose preferred. She gave up asking, discarded the litter box, and decreed that the cat, now an adolescent kitten, be ousted at night and whenever the house was unattended.

Some cats wouldn’t have taken kindly to such treatment. GM thrived on it. Although he ultimately died young, he lived with flair and packed more adventure into a half dozen years than other cats manage in two decades. He became a hunter so self-sufficient that grocery-store cat food nearly followed the litter box into the trash. We kept a dish of dry food in the kitchen, but he seldom touched it.

Much to my relief, he showed little interest in killing birds. Nor was he much of a mouser, preferring bigger game. One morning when he was only six months old, he was waiting beside a partially-eaten squirrel, which he’d placed on the welcome mat beside the newspaper.

Whatever reward he was expecting, he didn’t get, and that was the last time he did that. But we could tell he’d had a successful evening if his belly was distended and he was unusually lazy in the morning.

His favorite prey seemed to be rabbits, which he ate in their entirety except for the big bones of the thigh and the fur-ball of the cottontail. My brother and I would tally the kills when we mowed the lawn: clunk from something hidden in the grass, an explosion of fur, and we’d chalk another up to GM. In the summer, he averaged about four a week.

My mother was delighted. The daughter of a farmer, she had no sympathy for rabbits. And in the years we had GM, she had the best gardens of her life. Long before, she’d given up hope that our dog, a 20-pound poodle named Suzy, would rid the garden of rabbits. Suzy was eager to make the attempt, but her methods, although spectacular, did more damage to the garden than to the rabbits.

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50 Years Ago on a Beach in Oregon…

Today’s big news was the apparent success of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. That was fun and exciting. But, this week is also the 50th anniversary of Oregon’s most famous news story.

What’s that, you say? The passage of the nation’s first bottle bill? The beach bill? Any of the other things that put Oregon on the map in the 1970s?

Nope. And beware, this one might cause you to you laugh hard enough to make you blubber.

It’s the story of a good idea that went a bit off the rails. Enjoy.

BTW, the newscaster is still on the air.


Remembering Pat Lovett (1923-2020): Remarks from her Memorial Service

Who was Pat Lovett?

That was the question I thought I’d be answering here today. But how can you define a person who graced the earth for nearly 97 years?

When she was born, commercial radio was a new thing. Movies were jerky, silent affairs.

She lived to collect movies on CDs and record them off an invention called TV, using something that wasn’t even imagined when she was a child: satellite broadcasts beamed straight to her backyard.

Which means there’s a lot about her I don’t know. Not that she was a closed book. It’s just that she was a book with many chapters, interconnecting in the unexpected literary tapestry of a long life, well lived.

If any of you have ever read a John McPhee book, you know what I’m talking about. He wrote in tapestries, with threads appearing and reappearing and merging into unexpected patterns.

He would have loved her.

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Take a knee with me for 8:46

Today, on Facebook, I invited friends to join me in taking a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silent meditation and/or prayer, starting at 6 pm PDT (for those who could schedule it) or whenever else they could, for those for whom that time was difficult.

It was an incredibly powerful experience.

I’ve been asked to repeat it on Tuesday, June 9, for those who didn’t hear about it in time on Monday, and then to repeat it every Monday for the rest of June.

The idea is simple. Set a timer and take a knee, like a football player, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time in which George Floyd was pinned to the ground with a knee to his neck.

Or, if arthritis or other health concerns preclude that, just sit quietly on a chair or a couch. The idea is not to stress yourself, but to let yourself contemplate.

If you do take a knee, I recommend a knee pad of some kind, such as a fleece jacket, or some other soft surface. Also, this can be a bit of a balance test (especially if you close your eyes), so kneel next to a coffee table, chair, or other object on which you can steady your balance, so you can focus on prayer or meditation, rather than working not to topple over.

* Image by Zach Dischner / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0).

Earning Trust in Minneapolis

Today, I heard someone who sounded like a spokesperson for the Hennepin County prosecutor’s office say that the arrest of Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd was the fastest in which a police officer had ever been charged for the death of someone in custody. *Photo by Fibonacci Blue, wikimedia commons.

He said that like that was a badge of honor.

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Alberto Salazar’s Legacy

Note: This post was written nearly a week before Mary Cain published her experiences with Alberto and the Nike Oregon Project in the New York Times. This post deals entirely with the doping ban. My thoughts on Mary’s revelations are in a separate post.

Alberto Salazar in Eugene, 2008. Credit: Cal Hopkins.

Six years ago, I shared a bus ride with Alberto Salazar. It was the 2013 Chicago Marathon and we both had runners in the elite field. Security was tight, and the only way to and from the elite start was by bus. Going to the start, all went well, but on the way back, the bus driver got lost, winding up in a warren of underground parking garages. After several frustrating minutes, he halted. “Anybody want out?”

I’m not sure which of us was quickest to shout “yes,” but Alberto and I were first off the bus. I knew Chicago better than he did, and, with a bit of luck, led him through underground walkways and stairwells until we emerged near Michigan Avenue.

We were about a mile from the elite coaches’ viewing area, so we started jogging. Alberto was faster than me, but I’d spent the previous day scouting the finish, so I was the one who knew where to go. For about half the way, we ran companionably together. Then two black guys who’d gotten off the bus behind us passed by.

“Now the Kenyan coaches are beating me!” Alberto grumbled, and started to give chase—a problem, because the Kenyans were either going to somewhere other than the elite viewing area, or were going or were equally in the dark about how to find it. They overshot the turn in, with Alberto still trying to chase them until I managed to call him back and point him in the right direction.

Over the years, I’ve recalled this story many times. It is, quite simply, the quintessential Alberto Salazar story: funny at the time, but a microcosm of the hyper-competitiveness that would contribute, years later, to his undoing.

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The science of running and aging

I wrote this article in 2009 for Running Times, and amazingly it’s still online. It’s also an evergreen topic: “The Science of Aging and Running: Why your body slows and what you can do about it.

Last spring, fresh into a new masters age group, I ran a 5K. Nothing unusual in that; I’d run spring 5Ks the year before … and the year before that … for quite a few years. The surprise was that I was 45 seconds faster than I’d been in any recent year. Age-graded, it was a massive PR.

Short course, I thought, but a couple weeks later, I did it again, then twice more. Friends were wondering about my training. “What are you doing differently?” they asked.

When I went back and looked at my training logs, the answer was surprising: I’d cut back my mileage. I’d done it simply because I was busy, but as the winter progressed, my speed workouts had responded. For masters runners, less is often more.

Aging, like injuries, is one of those things most of us prefer to deny...read more.