ifindkarma. elegance is refusal.

April 26, 2010

Bret Michaels & Brain Hemorrhages, The White Apple of Death, and Back in Black

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — ifindkarma @ 5:09 pm

We left on our On the 10s Road Trip??almost two weeks ago (on April 13!), and we have had many, many adventures, many of which I have not yet blogged about because I fall asleep exhausted at the end of every adventurous day!

The blog posts about our adventures after??New Mexico will be coming in the days ahead.

Our blogging in real-time has been complicated by LIVING in the NOW, actually HAVING??the adventures. It was further complicated this weekend when I was stupid enough to LIKE a Jon Stewart clip on Facebook from my iPhone. Let me be the first to say that Facebook LIKE button + iPhone app + AT&T service = The White Apple of Death.

As in, the finger of death I used to do a one-pawed operation (LIKE, fersure!) crashed my iPhone — 48 hours & counting, it won’t reboot, and is stuck on The White Apple of Death:

All the pictures I’ve taken on our Road Trip might very well be LOST if iPhone can’t figure out a way to boot itself. Right now my iPhone’s like a supine bug struggling to get to its feet.

My business partner Joyce of course tells me to just let go. Joyce tweets, “Isn’t the Apple of Death apropos for Death Panda???Let those photos go. Never look back, dahling, it distracts from the NOW!

(Aside: I thought letting go of photos was more the domain of Death Bear.)

So stay tuned for more Road Trip blog posts soon, with or without pictures, depending on whether iPhone resurrects.

In the meantime, 5000 words on Metal Monday.

Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice front runner Bret Michaels, lead singer of heavy metal band Poison, has suffered a brain hemorrhage. As anyone who reads this posterous can attest, aneurysms are front of mind for me.??

But I’m not the only one. Even Megan Kelley Hall says, “not quite sure why I’m obsessed with getting updates on Bret Michaels’s condition, since I’m not a fan of Poison and never watched Rock of Love (but I do really like him on Celebrity Apprentice)… I tell people at my book signings that facing death kicked my butt into achieving my goal of becoming a published author. Do what you’ve always dreamed of doing TODAY. Right now. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Just do it. Make every day count.”

Apparently they can’t find Bret Michaels’s aneurysm with CAT, MRI, or angiogram! So they can’t operate to fix it, and it’s still bleeding. (This is related to Joyce’s aneurysm:??Joyce recently learned that she can’t have an MRI on her head because the metal clips and screws in there could be dislodged by magnetism.)??

The blood from a subarachnoid hemorrhage irritates the brain tissues and can result in an ischemic stroke and permanent brain damage.

Once again we are reminded that the human brain is delicate, fragile, and mortal. We’re made of meat.

On the other hand, being made of meat has its advantages. For example, it gives us great pleasure to listen to heavy metal while on an epic Road Trip. And music just might be the key to redemption and salvation. As Don MacLean said,

Do you believe in rock n’ roll,
Can music save your mortal soul???

It can. More on that soon.

Metal artists fall into two main categories. There’s the moody apocalyptic wailers who flirt with the devil and employ rock n’ roll??to save their mortal souls when all they see is death and destruction and dementia all around them. Metallica, Megadeth, Motorhead, and those who try to be like them… they’re great for escape when you’re having a shitty day, but not really the stuff for Road Trips.??

Joyce tells me that The Road Trip metal artists are the ones who sing about fucking, having a damn good time, and being awesome. Example: Bret Michaels??injured himself performing Poison’s “Nothin’ but a Good Time” in 2009! These are the folks that Bill & Ted and Wayne & Garth and Beavis & Butt-head are most into, and they revel in being excellent to each other and of course partying on, dudes. Van Halen, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Poison, and the king of them all, AC/DC.

(As an aside, David Lee Roth of Van Halen was accused by critics of writing songs about nothing but sex, partying, and cars, which made him realize he had never written a song about cars! So he wrote PANAMA!)

On our On the 10s Road Trip we listened to a lot of road metal, and AC/DC most of all. And then we came to realize that songs like “Hell’s Bells”, “Rock n Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, “Let Me Put My Love Into You”, and “You Shook Me All Night Long” all ??came from one, single, spectacular album: BACK IN BLACK.

“Back in Black” is an album that lives at the cross-roads of metal, appealing to BOTH the road-tripping party animals and the broody, dark, in-their-rooms-with-headsets-blasting headbangers. And it was written right after the album named after perhaps the greatest road tripping song since Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” — namely, “Highway to Hell”!

“Back in Black” is a masterpiece that was in the process of being written exactly 30 years ago — and released July 25, 1980.

What I didn’t realize until now is how important this single album is in the entire canon of music:

1. It is the second-highest-selling album of all time worldwide (behind Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”).

2. It is the top-selling album of all time by a rock band.

3. Much like Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”, it was never the top-selling album in the United States in any given week. This album has unbelievably steady longevity for almost thirty years — ironic for heavy metal, which in general believes it’s better to burn out than fade away.

4. Many of the guitar licks on this album were original, catchy, and highly influential. It is clear that Bret Michaels listened to “Back in Black” many, many times. And the album still sounds fresh today, 30 years after their initial release. (Even Nickelback and Maroon Five have tapped Mutt Lange to produce a similar sound in 2008… and 2010!)

5. This wasn’t their first album or second album. This was their SIXTH album. It took them that long to get their craft perfect. However, it wasn’t written by a single, cohesive vision from a single person, despite having a grand unified theme. You wouldn’t know it was written by multiple people, but it was. More on that soon.

6. The album is BOTH about sex & partying AND about death. More on that after the video for “Back in Black”.

Bret Michaels’ brothers-in-metal, AC/DC were at a cross-roads in early 1980, and this album might never have been made, because their lead singer and songwriter on their first five albums, Bon Scott, died unexpectedly from alcohol poisoning on February 19, 1980 at the age of 33.

The surviving members of the band considered disbanding following Scott’s death, but they ultimately decided to continue and shortly thereafter hired Brian Johnson as their new lead singer and lyricist.

The group decided to finish the songwriting they had started under Scott and Back in Black was the final result.

According to Angus Young the album’s all-black cover was a “sign of mourning” for Scott, as black is the traditional Western colour of mourning.

That’s right, they turned to rock n’ roll to comfort them in a time of sadness after the loss of their great friend, to write songs about fucking, having a damn good time, and being awesome.

AC/DC could have been torn apart by the death of their great friend. Instead, they used it as their inspiration and motivation, and put themselves completely into their art, and as a result have become ageless, timeless, and eternal:??

Much of AC/DC???s appeal lies in the group???s consistency, its unwavering focus on cranking up the rhythms of early rock into stadium-sized anthems. Although AC/DC has fans of all ages, it is almost unique among ???70s bands in that it never tried to grow up with its audience. The band never experimented with different genres, made an ???unplugged?????album or even recorded a ballad, and none of its songs sound rooted in a particular time.

The group???s raw aggression is as relevant to teenagers who listen to its albums on iPods as they were to those who heard them on record players. ???Back in Black,??? which has sold 49 million copies worldwide since 1980, according to Columbia, could serve as a catchy soundtrack to teenage frustration for as long as it exists.

Radio signals carrying AC/DC’s awesome tunes will traverse the universe for as long as there is a universe.

And still relevant today: AC/DC is featured in such iconic pop phenom’s in 2010 as the entire Iron Man 2 soundtrack and an AC/DC version of “Rock Band”.

Every Monday is Metal Monday, but today especially so. AC/DC inspires us, and Bret Michaels is in our thoughts.

Bret Michaels prognosis??is hard to read: “Worst outcome = death, middle of scale = permanent speech and vision deficit.” I hope he does even better than that. They’re still not sure if it was an aneurysm that caused his brain hemorrhage.

Apparently they don’t know what caused it — just that he was lucky!

To Bret Michaels and your brain hemorrhage: I hope you get well soon, buddy, and hope that this unfortunate situation inspires more heavy metal art. We play “Nothin’ but a Good Time” and think of you:

Want to know more about my thoughts about aneurysms and brain hemorrhages? See also:

1. Death Panda — about the aneurysms of Joyce Park, Craig Johnson, Jill Bolte Taylor, Takuya Kimura, David Mills, and Jerry York.

2. Frequently Asked Questions About Aneurysms — by my business partner Joyce Park, who had a brain hemorrhage last August.

3. Do Aneurysms Strike Type A People More? — a question that has no good answer.

4. Every Aneurysm is a Reminder — to get busy with the business of living your life, NOW.

5. Lessons Are Repeated Until They Are Learned — knowing that our time in this world is limited, we often seek happiness externally, but that is not a good use of time, for happiness comes from within.

From the White Apple of Death to “Back in Black”, one message rings clear and loud:??
Whatever you do and wherever you are, BE WHO YOU ARE, and BE HERE AND NOW.

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April 15, 2010

Top Ten I-10 Road Trip Tips, by Susan C. Kim

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — ifindkarma @ 10:06 pm
Our friend Eric Barker??has a friend Susan C. Kim, who we asked for travel tips as we road trip on the 10s tour. Thank you Susan for this wonderful reply!!!

Advice on driving the 10? Well, I’ve never done it, but I can say:

1. Don’t sleep at rest stops at night

2. If you do, lock your car–and your pants

3. Never think you can wait until the next gas stop; could be 100 miles away

4. Driving sleepy is more dangerous than driving drunk

5. Don’t road rage with the locals (I learned this the hard way in rural Texas)

6. Take photos of everything, back it up on a hard drive every day, and and log every thought you have (could be useful later) and back that up too

7. If you drive with the window open, your left arm will get tan, which is cool if you like that

8. Don’t kill your co-pilot bc then you have to figure out where to dump the body

9. Bad things that happen make for good stories

10. But don’t make any shit up

Best of luck!

-Susan

About Susan C. Kim: “I write for a living. About food, travel, home design, the environment, and lifestyle news features. For several years, Coastal Living hired me as its W. Coast Editor and Features Writer. I produced stories, photo shoots, and generally spent alot of time with sunscreen on. Now I’m a free agent, thinking and writing at will. My published stories include those in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, TIME, California Home + Design, Sunset Magazine, CNN.com, Where Magazine (San Francisco), California State Visitor???s Guide, AOL Travel Guide, Pregnancy Magazine, AcuraStyle, Hyphen, GlobalChefs.com, and Coastal Living. I’ve appeared on television and radio to discuss lifestyle topics, and have also developed recipes for Select Magazine, Culinary Trends, and the Asian Grandmother???s Cookbook. Health Magazine and the Chicago Tribune covered the story of my career switch from attorney to writer. Do I ever regret making the jump? Hell no.”

??


Top 10 things on the 10s: Tucson and New Mexico.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — ifindkarma @ 9:48 pm

We woke up early on Day 2 of our On the 10s Tour, and headed out from Phoenix to Tucson for breakfast and a visit to Saguaro National Park. The rest of the day was spent uneventfully racking up the miles through New Mexico and a little bit of Texas, which we drove into this morning at midnight.

This post is dedicated to the thousands of bugs who gave their lives to decorate our windshield

1. Saguaro National Park was resplendent and full of life, but as we suspected it does not meet the criteria for a national park because it is not unique or irreplaceable. If Yosemite or the Grand Canyon disappeared one day, the world would be bereft; but if Saguaro NP did not exist, I suspect the slack would be filled just fine by the adjoining state parks and the Desert Museum — plus half of Arizona has saguaros in their backyards anyway. So it’s enjoyable if brutally sunny, obviously one of the easiest National Parks to visit since it’s basically in the city limits of Tucson, and has VERY short nature trails that should be accessible for anyone… but a legit national park it’s not.

2. Things we learned about the Sonoran desert:
* It is one of the most complex and spectacular of the desert ecosystems
* Desert Museum (pwns) Saguaro National Park
* Javelinas are not piggies
* Bats pollinate saguaro flowers with their tongues!

3. Green chiles are ubiquitous in New Mexico and Arizona. You can get them on everything: stew, burgers, chicken sandwiches, cornbread, cheese fries. And green corn tamales! Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe in Tucson makes them fresh and delicious with strips of green chile. And the best huevos rancheros I’ve ever had. We were so impressed we named our Googlephone’s voice navigation system after her.

4. Teresa (our aforementioned from-the-future-to-save-our-lives Android HTC Google Nexus One voice nav system) is teh awesome and a Garmin killer and one of the main reasons Android is so great! She shouts out directions as you need them!! Now when she says, “In a quarter mile, turn right on Main Street”, we say “Thank you Teresa” and think subconsciously of Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe’s handmade tortilla station.

5. Google Maps directions on AT&T iPhone are unusably slow, buggy, and always failing at just the wrong time. Sprint Mobile Hotspot + Nexus One voice nav is 1000 times better. Teresa gives just as bad directions, plus she doesn’t give much advance notice — but she recovers very well if you miss a turn, and updates the new directions in real-time. As calming as a Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe green-chile corn tamale.

6. On every road trip there is a moment when you are tired, hungry, and your plans fall through — and for us it was last night’s attempt to eat dinner at a place in Las Cruces called Nellie’s diner. Nellie’s hours weren’t on Yelp, Roadfood, TripAdvisor, or Google. (We have since posted them on Yelp.) We tried to call but got a busy signal, so we didn’t discover that they close at 2PM until we arrived at 8PM. This is when your mobile smartphone can save your bacon. Joyce and I raced to find a new
dinner spot using our favorite local websites: I tried Yelp + Foursquare + Gowalla, but Joyce handily won with Google Local and the search term “green chile”. High Desert Brewing Company turned out to be across the street and had much better food than you’d suspect from the somewhat rowdy bar ambiance.

7. Sprint was no good in the big empty stretch between Tucson and the middle of Texas. Without EVDO, Joyce could not get email, use the web, or upload photos on her Palm Pre — just voice and text. And we still haven’t gotten 4G anywhere.

8. Car chargers saved our asses several times yesterday. Get one for every critical mobile device you’re road-tripping with or your gadgets will sleep at the exact worst moment.

9. Trying to find a last-minute motel room on the road, coupons in gas station pamphlets still get you far better deals than real-time searches on your mobile. And make sure to have your AAA card with you at all times! Because you never know when your car is going to omit water and Twitter will only get you so far.

10. Most smart phones still suck as phones — especially with Bluetooth pairing (via Jawbone and Blue Ant, which are the two very best) contributing to lag, ??dropped words, and garbled sentences. Phone calls to family and friends have been so frustrating! When will there be a great mobile phone that works well for voice? Palm and Android offer the most hope… but for now they’re just OK. And make us very happy we’re hauling so many devices on our road trip!

I’ve got my customized “On the 10s”??Zazzle shirt on, and next up is Day 3: driving through Texas on Tax Day (which is also Joyce’s birthday!). Unexpected torrential rains and expected OMGwtfBBQ to come…

See also: On the 10s Tour / Day 1: LA and Phoenix / LA Times article

April 14, 2010

Top 10 things on the 10s: LA and Phoenix.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — ifindkarma @ 6:23 pm

In accord with the theme of our On the 10’s road trip, we’ll be blogging our Top 10 observations every day, yay!

Before we do, BIG THANKS to LA Times‘ Jessica Guynn for writing about our Road Trip as we were driving through LA!

Now, on to the Top 10 list.

First leg: Palo Alto to the start of Interstate 10 in Santa Monica to Phoenix. The highlight? Pizza!

1. Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ. Allegedly the best pizza in America, and totally worth the 3.5 hours we waited for a table (tip: Bar Bianco, in the next building, has no sign). Short and exceedingly strict menu: only two appetizers (grilled veg and spiedini, both very worthwhile), half a dozen of the most delicate pizzas you’ll ever see, and maybe a salad or two. You must try the marinara pizza if you get nothing else… the chef says marinara is the most severe test of his art, because it’s nothing but gently hand-tossed wood-brick-fired crust and a light tomato sauce — no cheese, nowhere to hide. Come before 4PM or after 9pm, or you will wait a long time for such a great pizza experience.

2. Chicks dig the Overdrive mobile wireless hotspot! Sprint had decent 3G coverage all the way from Palo Alto to Phoenix, but 4G which is allegedly available in Phoenix did not work at all and it regularly threw the iPad and Nexus One off the networks. Plants vs Zombies took half an hour to download in the middle of downtown Phoenix. AT&T’s coverage was spotty at best, and we still haven’t gotten the Palm Pre Plus working on Verizon :(.

3. We Tweeted via text message all day long, and Twitter appears to have lost 100% of our updates. 100% packet loss! This was doubly frustrating because our friends expected updates, and started texting and calling when they couldn’t see our current status. Facebook status OTOH was flawless, immediate, and highly interactive.??I did most of my replies yesterday on Facebook, not Twitter.??

4. The History Museum in Phoenix closed and was merged with the science museum. 😦

5. Big ups to the photo flash on the Palm Pre and the Blackberry Curve. iPhone and Nexus One found the restaurant too dark for pizza photos.

6. Huckleberry Bakery in Santa Monica, CA. The maple bacon biscuit is not a biscuit, it’s not even a scone… it’s basically a hunk of shortbread with bacon bits and maple glaze. The essence of biscuits is evanescence: a puff of steam should come out when you crack one open, and they should be fluffy. Green eggs and ham, on the other hand, was as good as we remembered. Not only is the combination of ingredients intriguing and tasty, but each one (sunnyside eggs, pesto, arugula, house made English muffin, prosciutto) was perfectly prepared for this purpose. Joyce did not eat her English muffin with pesto, so I took it on the road for lunch.

7. Both Pizzeria Bianco and Huckleberry served La Quercia prosciutto. It’s made in Iowa and it’s the real deal, fresh yet complex.

8. Uploading photos to Flickr and Twitpic via email interface were super easy and fast — send and forget — and they both tweet the photo automatically for you. Facebook app on iPhone was an epic fail for uploading photos. Crashed my iPhone for 40 minutes, and uploads took several minutes in LA — thanks AT&T. Not!

9. Google Maps directions were incomprehensible, illogical, or just plain wrong all the time in Phoenix. For instance, Google Maps directions told us to go left to 3rd street to get to 7th street… when they are parallel to each other! Also, Google Maps on the Palm Pre has no automatic saved searches… so for instance if you type in an address but lose connectivity before you arrive there, you’re screwed.

10. Without traffic it took 90 minutes to get out of LA Metro on Interstate 10. Strip-mall sprawl all the way out past Riverside!

See also: On the 10s Tour??and LA Times feature

April 13, 2010

On the 10s Tour.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — ifindkarma @ 7:37 am

Death Panda.

The past week I’ve been thinking a lot about Death — about missing those who’ve left us, about feeling the pain of their departures, about grieving and how to overcome grief, about why we die, about what we should do about the things we never had a chance to say or do.

In short, I’ve been a “Death Panda”, repeatedly thinking about these five tenets:

1. Missing is a part of living.

2. Pain is proportional to the love you give.

3. To get over grief, be there for someone else’s grief.

4. Be here now, for those in your life who are here now.

5. Lose your regrets and carry on.

Concurrent with my thinking about death, this past weekend Joyce trekked out to Death Valley to see the wildflowers. She drove five hours each way to spend one hour with the flowers. She has literally walked through the Valley of the shadow of Death.

 

Death used to be an abstract concept to me. The last two years of my life have made it ever-more concrete.

1. April 11, 2008. My 29-year-old brother Damon died. He was too young. (He’s actually my brother-in-law, but he’ll always be a brother to me.)

2. July 2008. My 94-year-old grandmother Tia Rifkin died in her home.

3. May 2009. Billy Hinton, one of Joyce’s best friends, died after a long period of ill health. He was too young.

4. June 2009. My friend and advisor Rajeev Motwani died. He was 47.

5. August 2009. My friend and business partner Joyce Park had a brain aneurysm. 60% of aneurysms are fatal; 35% result in brain damage. She rolled a 20 on that 20-sided die. She lives despite coming very, very close to death.

6. October 2009. My friend and advisor Craig Johnson also suffered a stroke. He was 62.

7. April 4, 2010. My friend for almost 16 years Bob died on Easter Sunday, April 4. The week between Bob’s death and now culminated in yesterday’s two-year anniversary of Damon’s passing. The last week has been long and sad.

Thinking about death made me think about what I want in life. Mid-week I composed a bucket list. One of the things that is missing from that list is that I’d like to not feel sad about death.

So I talked with Michelle about our sadness and I came to realize that sadness has two components: the loneliness that comes from losing someone close, and the regrets that come from not having spent as much time with that person as I now wish I did.

To assuage loneliness, give love. But how can a person lose regrets?

I thought about Death Bear, whose purpose in life is to remove the pain associated with memories attached to physical objects.

Then I wondered if there could be a variation on this theme — a Death Panda! — whose purpose in life is to remove the pain associated with memories attached to regrets.

If we could lose our regrets, we could get busy living the rest of our lives, and truly be here now for those who are still in our lives.

Not just regrets attached to commission and failure, but regrets attached to things we think we should have or could have done, but didn’t — regrets of omission.

I think regrets weigh very heavily on the brain, and I wonder if that kind of emotional baggage is correlated with brain diseases.

Joyce lived to answer questions about brain aneurysms, yet in the past month I’ve personally been reminded of aneurysms on three occasions — by an athlete/coach, by a screenwriter/producer, and by a businessman — all at different ages, all of whom died of stroke-related complications.

1. 37-year old Japanese baseball coach Takuya Kimura (not the actor) – who could play every position except pitcher – died of a brain hemorrhage.

2. David Mills, 48, screenwriter on Homicide, The Wire, and Treme died of brain aneurysm.

3. Jerry York, 71-year-old Apple Board member, died after being stricken with a brain aneurysm.

I wonder what else these three people had in common. I wonder what else they can teach us.

If nothing else, every aneurysm is a reminder of the five tenets of Death Panda.

1. Missing is a part of living.

2. Pain is proportional to the love you give.

3. To get over grief, be there for someone else’s grief.

4. Be here now, especially for those in your life who are here now.

5. Lose your regrets and carry on.

Rock on, Death Panda. Rock on.

I’ve had enough of death for now.

I want to get in a car, and drive and drive and drive. Two words: Road trip!!!

If you don’t hear from me till May, it’s because I’m on the road!

Filed under: ifindkarma!, relax! — ifindkarma @ 12:10 am

ROAD TRIP driving coast-to-coast across the 10 to celebrate 2010!!!

April 9, 2010

My bucket list.

1. HUG PANDAS!

2. Drive On the 10s across the USA, coast to coast. DONE

3. Build a successful Internet business and Save the Web.

4. Ride the San Jose Sharks Zamboni.

5. Take a private jet to Hattiesburg, Mississippi so that for once it doesn’t take an entire exhausting day to get there.

6. Write a children’s book based on the many adventures of intrepid, majestic Bob the Cat and his brother Beavis.

7. Make enough money to rent a blimp to take to Chengdu to do #1. And do #5 in good conscience. Dirigibles and private jets are not cheap.

8. Own a successful bar or restaurant where people like to gather. (Update: Working on it.)

9. Stay at Yosemite between Labor Day and Halloween on at least one occasion. Reflect on happiness under the stars.

funny pictures of cats with captions

 

BONUS BUCKET ITEM. Make enough money to buy the New York Islanders and rename them the Long Island Iced T’s. New logo: polar bears sipping tall drinks

April 8, 2010

Life is… delicious ambiguity.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — ifindkarma @ 11:24 pm

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some??poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning,??middle, and end.

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking??the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to??happen next.

Delicious ambiguity.

??~??Gilda Radner??(magnet)

??

April 5, 2010

Eulogy for Bob.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — ifindkarma @ 10:22 pm

It is with deep sadness that I write about the passing yesterday of my great friend of 16 years, Bob. He was an exceptional friend and cat, and I cannot stop thinking about him and his life, and how much better my life was because of him. He shared in my happiness often, and he absorbed my pain when I needed him most.

Was it only last Wednesday that I wrote that every aneurysm is a reminder that life is short; that our bodies are vessels borrowed for a little while in this world; that we should show our loved ones how much we care; that we should strive to be here now.

I miss Bob. I will think of him often, and the lessons he taught me:

1. Be aggressive when defending those you love.
2. Get plenty of sleep every day.
3. Truly enjoy your food.
4. Breathe. Steal an hour to sniff the flowers.
5. Hug your friends whenever they need it.
6. Lead without fear; live with conviction.
7. Be here now. Live in the moment. Show your love.

Apologies for the long post below about Bob and what he taught me and what he meant to me. I would have written fewer words if I had more time. I’m sure Bob would have enjoyed my reading this to him — he would have dozed off early on, snoring (and sometimes kicking in his sleep) vigorously to let me know I was filling his dreams with delicious things.

Losing such a special friend really hits me deep in my core. I feel profound pain. All I want to do is hug my friends and tell them all how much they mean to me. Bob was exceptional as a friend because we hugged often and whenever I needed, and he was always present and supportive, even when he didn’t understand me.

My friend Chris Smith told me that writing a eulogy can help me cope with the loss of someone who was there for me every day for sixteen years. Perhaps part of why I am so shaken is that he left this world so suddenly after being a part of my life for so long.

Bob’s journey started in Pasadena, California, where he was born to our friend Diane Goodfellow’s cat’s litter of two striped and two black mutt kittens on May 12, 1994. He was the runt of the litter — so small, he fit in my hand! Diane said, “You want that one?!” because she was certain we’d choose one of his beautiful sisters instead. But Michelle was unswayed: at that moment, she was not only Bob’s mother — she was The One who chose him, and he’d forever more be bonded to her as his special Queen. He treated her like royalty from day one.

We adopted Bob and his striped tabby brother Beavis; their original names were Pooh and Tigger, and they were together every day for sixteen years. Beavis now looks for his brother, and there’s nothing sadder than not being able to explain that his brother is gone.

I wasn’t so much Bob’s owner, as a member of his staff: preparing meals, administering insulin and other medicines, shopping for him, cleaning up after him, attending to his needs…

Bob lived his whole life in California; Pasadena for the first eight years, and Palo Alto for the last eight. He was like Shimbleshanks, or a Roomba: he loved to patrol, and he preferred a home with an outside yard so he could do regular walkabouts, inside and out.

He was also a “pack leader” — noted by the “red sticker” every vet gave him for “dominance”. Sure, he could be aggressive when defending those he loved, but he was also very loving, and it’s that combination of tough and soft that made him so special.

Bob was “an independent kitty who enjoyed taking long naps, thinking about long naps, finding places for long naps, and getting up from a long nap to resettle a few feet away for another long nap,” as Chris Smith notably wrote about his own friendcat Hobbes. Bob was a big cat, weighing in most recently at 17 pounds, but I attribute most of that weight to his heart. Bob had a big heart.

Whenever I was feeling down, he would walk up to me to see how I was doing. Sometimes he spoke in a voice so high-pitched, it was almost comical for such a big cat. He had a robust, warm purr that you could hear from across the room.

Bob had many loves. Friends, good food, sleep, flowers, toys… he knew what was important in life.

He loved his friends (known to him as “followers” or “minions”). He would generously share his food with his feline companions Beavis and Lola — and although even his humans were reluctant to partake in his food, he was more than happy to partake in theirs.

He loved to share meals with his human companions — and was not too particular whether those meals comprise chicken, salmon, or cheese. Occasionally he’d even steal a french fry when we weren’t looking. Sometimes he’d put c
runchy cat food and toys in his water bowl to liven up a meal. He also loved to take his own food out of the food bowl with one paw, and eat it with his mouth open, with his crunching echoing throughout the house and echoing through eternity. From the sound of his eating I could tell that he truly enjoyed his food.
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He loved to sit. Like a king, on his throne.
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He loved to sleep. I count no fewer than seventeen places that were his preferred spots to catnap. Some in the sun, some next to heaters, some in human beds, some in cat beds, some in flower beds, some pillows, some spots on the floor, and a few places to get away from it all — one in a closet and one deep under my bed.
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He loved to drink water from unusual places, be it a mud puddle outside or fresh “soup” from running the water in the shower. He loved water in unusual containers, ??and he enjoyed different temperatures from ice water to warm water and everything in between.

He loved a clean litterbox so much that whenever we’d clean it he’d rush in to use it immediately — even if all he had were a few drops. Going to the bathroom with minimal results came to be known as “pulling a Bob” in our household.

He loved the news. Once he ate the plastic string that kept a newspaper bound together, and we had to chase him around the house when it came out the other side but he hadn’t completely passed it. He thought we were playing some marvellous game with him and ran whenever we’d get close enough to help him get it out of him. Life was often a game for Bob.

He loved flowers. Once he jumped to pounce some flowers but glass was in the way, and he bounced off the glass and went on his way as if it didn’t happen. Regularly he’d take strolls (and naps!) in flower beds. He loved the feel of the dirt between his toes. Sometimes he’d stick his nose in a flower so far that he’d get bright pollen all over his face. The stark contrast of bright orange specks on his dark black face was evidence of an otherwise perfect crime: stealing an hour to sniff the flowers.

He loved being groomed. He didn’t mind taking baths and occasionally loved them. He had a LOT of soft, lustrous black fur — which led to all manner of dander- and hairball-related complications (especially for Beavis and Lola, who regularly groomed him!). So regularly we’d give him a “lion cut”. People thought this was mean, but he loved it, and would often come home purring up a storm from two of his favorite things — lion cuts and riding in cars.

He loved cars. Sometimes we’d just take him for a drive, and he’d stand up tall with his paws on the dashboard and look out the front window and feel the breeze of the side windows. If he were human, he would have gone on many road trips.

He loved to lead. Bob led without fear — he’d roar at those who got in his way, and was bold and unapologetic about whatever he was doing. He lived with conviction, and he encouraged his followers to do the same. There were so many habits of his — sleeping on our heads like a Russian hat, eating cheese out of the bag, “making muffins” with his paws on the bed, licking mohair sweaters like he was grooming them, rubbing a paw on his human servants to get our attention whenever he needed us or food or toys — that the other cats adopted once they saw him do it. Such was life of Bob, the leader of the pack.

He loved his followers. Not just we cohabitators, and not just the other cats, but anyone who visited us: Joyce and Chris and Darron and the Thedakers and Brian and Heather and Jennifer and Ray and C.T. and Betty and Linda and Billy… we were all his minions. Once he sneaked up on C.T. snoozing in the house and got right in his face and started barking commands, “Meow-Row-Rooww!!” Bob was a drill sergeant with a heart of gold, always looking for more people and things to follow him.

He loved his toys. Since he was a leader, he treated his toys like members of his own Parliament, walking them through the house and talking at them in a high-pitched yodel as if he were telling them what to do when they were about to have a vote on something. “Bob’s Rules of Order”, we used to call them.
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He loved to sing. Sometimes chattering to the birds or squirrels (often with a paw in the air going up and down like a maestro directing his orchestra!), other times yodeling in the middle of the night as if he were a grand opera singer.
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He loved to dance. Sometimes he’d alternate paws across a glass door and make motions alternatively like he was dancing with himself against the glass. Other times we’d use a “cat dancer” toy and he’d jump around to music, or we’d sit him in front of a “kitty safari” video and he’d get up and dance to the images on the screen. Springtime when he was in the backyard, we’d blow bubbles, and he’d sing and dance and jump and play, chasing and chomping the bubbles like a child.
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He loved to hug. His hugs were big and strong, and the sound of a robust purr filled the room. He was always available for a hug, whenever you needed it… and even when you didn’t know that you needed it!
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He loved the words of Maya Angelou, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” He loved to meet new people and make them minions of his.

He loved to flatten himself, with paws stretched out and crossed in the front. Not sure what that was about.

And he loved catnip. Boy did he love catnip.

Bob loved every season, and loved to wa
lk the perimeter of the backyard in any weather. After years on the job as a patrol cat, he was getting ready for a placid retirement among the wildflowers and (imported) wild salmons of Palo Alto, CA.

Last Thursday, April 1, I took Bob in for shots and his annual check-up. The vet said his white blood cell count was high and his red blood cell count was low, but there could be many reasons why, and he offered vitamins to treat him. Late Friday, Bob started having difficulty breathing, so on Saturday we visited the vet again. This time the doctor took ex-rays, which revealed a growth the size of a softball inside the cat.??Although he had diabetes, we had managed it well, and there were no serious complications due to it; this was just the cancer of a 16-year-old cat who had lived a robust life and was so strong that he had shown no signs of it in him until the very end.

Our vet was clearly shocked that Bob could have such enormous cancer not affect him until it was literally pressing against his diaphragm and bladder. We put him in the oxygen tank, and the vet suggested he stay overnight, but we said no, we’d rather bring him home. The vet said to prepare to say good-bye, but we were still processing the news that Bob was sick.??He rode in the car on my lap, happy and quiet. When we got home, the breathing problems started again. He went outside for a little while and laid in the flower garden, his favorite place. Then he came inside. Walking became more problematic, but he was able to get himself to heat lamps. We’d offer him water, which he drank gingerly, and prepared his favorite foods (salmon and cheese), but he wasn’t hungry. We brought blankets downstairs to sleep with him, but his breathing got worse, and as I was falling asleep about 1am, he started a trek that would end with him upstairs under the bed — the place he went whenever he needed to get away from it all. That final journey must have taken all of his remaining energy.??Eyes open, mouth open, in a position that looked like he was resting on his side, sometime around 4am on Easter Sunday 4/4, Bob left us.

I am struck by how many times in his last few hours, despite being exhausted and barely able to breathe, he would let us pet him and purr as loudly as he could. We had no idea he was about to die; he just seemed tired and in need of rest. But he must have known he was dying. And yet, he was a big believer in being here now. He was a big believer in showing his love, until the very end.

As I went about my daily routine yesterday and today, I was struck by how many times during a typical day I would interact with Bob. Feeding him, talking with him, carrying him, letting him out, letting him in, petting him, hugging him, snuggling him.
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I also am trembling at the thought that I lived with Bob longer than I lived with my brother or sister: 16 years. That’s almost as long as I lived with my parents. If I was used to sixteen years of hugs from him, it’s no wonder that a day without him feels like something is missing. It’s a reminder that missing is a part of living.

I truly appreciate all of the kind words my friends on Facebook and Twitter have offered to help assuage the pain of losing someone I cared deeply about. Why do we feel such pain upon loss? So we can be there for others when they grieve. Some of my favorites:
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1. Kelli Trent said that “animals awaken our souls and love us unconditionally“, and I really love those words. (Much Facebook love??for Bob; RIP, buddy)
2. Soyeun Choi said, “The pain we feel is proportional to the love we give and get.
3. Chris Smith said, “I remember when Alison and I cat-sat Bob and Beavis the weekend you went out of town to propose to Michelle. To get the photo of your cats looking right at me (I hope you still have it!), I had to repeatedly put the bowl of milk down, and then snatch it away so they’d look at me like, “WTF”? Of course, they couldn’t speak, so it was more like, “Mmmm….”” (Of course I still have it!)
4. YiShiMcGee said, “…But I tend to think of it like the end of the Little Prince: That Bob is on his own planet, sniffing roses now.” (She lost Chili, much condolences.)

I will think of Bob often, and the lessons he taught me:

1. Be aggressive when defending those you love.
2. Get plenty of sleep every day.
3. Truly enjoy your food.
4. Breathe. Steal an hour to sniff the flowers.
5. Hug your friends whenever they need it.
6. Lead without fear; live with conviction.
7. Be here now. Live in the moment. Show your love.

Bob loved cars, and he loved road trips. So I cut a little bit of his hair and whiskers, to keep in my Bob scrapbook to take with me on my next road trip… Next week.

With Bob in my heart and mind and memory book, at 2am next Tuesday April 13, I am getting into an ’89 Toyota Ca
mry with 180k miles on it, with Joyce as my co-pilot, and we are going to drive down to Santa Monica for breakfast. Immediately after that, we will take off on the 10, and take a road trip coast-to-coast, across the 10, across the USA, through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, to Jacksonville, Florida. More on that in another blog post.

For now, my dear Bob, I think of you.

Mr. Bob, King Bob, my dear dear friend, I hope you rest in peace, and I will remember you always. I love you.

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