The Cat, My Nemesis

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Misty

We are rivals for the affection and attention of the same woman. That is where our commonality ends.  I am not a “cat person.”  My feline aversion has everything to do with allergy and very little with to do with animosity.  I think Misty, the cat, somehow knows this and is using it to her own advantage.

It all started a few years ago when I visited Jeanne on Dutch Island for the first time.  I knew I had an allergy to cats and I knew she had a cat in her house. It is her daughter’s pet. I figured that I would just avoid contact with the cat and all would be fine.  Besides, Jeanne is a doctor and would be able to head off any ill effects if they popped up.  What could possibly go wrong?

During the second day of the trip, I started sneezing and feeling a little itchy. But I was cool about it.  The crush I had on this woman all those years ago was manifesting itself into something more significant, and I was trying to avoid complaints or whines about the cat. That evening we were in her kitchen preparing dinner.  I was sitting at the counter while she was prepping something on the granite surface near the sink with her back to me.  The cat was surreptitiously perched on the stool next to me, presenting herself to be petted and looking annoyed that I had not already commenced that activity.  As the conversation progressed, Jeanne turned around. The look on her face changed immediately when she glanced at me. “OH, DEAR GOD!”  The shocked look and sudden exclamation were not exactly what I was going for in the “wooing my dear friend” plan.  In the few moments that it took for Jeanne to finish the task in front of her and then turn back to me, my face had swollen to the point where my left eye was almost completely shut.

What followed was a bit of a blur.  A search for Benadryl, checking drawers for allergy remedies, mutterings of “I am a doctor, and I have nothing to help you in the house.”  I was getting a little loopy.   We hopped in a car and went to the store for allergy meds. It was about 10 p.m. on a Saturday evening as we pulled into the Walmart parking lot. The sideshow that can happen at a Walmart anywhere in the U.S. was in full swing in Savannah.  I realized that my swollen face was a part of the act.

Now, when I prep for a visit to Savannah, I start popping Claritin D like M&Ms for a week before I go.  An uneasy truce between Misty and I exists, but not without the occasional reminder that while I am on Dutch Island visiting with Jeanne, I am in Misty’s world.  I avoid contact with her because not doing so will lead to hives on my forearms, watery eyes and an increase in the frequency of sneezing fits.

DSCN2264When I arrive, you can almost sense that the cat is looking at me and thinking “Back for more, little man?”.  She still presents herself to be petted.  I always ignore her.  She sometimes pays me back for the slight by nipping at me.  While I am there, Jeanne will close the cat out of the bedrooms. Those rooms are Misty’s favorite place to sleep at night after napping all day.  My nemesis does not appreciate the appropriation of sleeping spots by the interloper from Virginia.

If I am up early in the morning to walk Bella, Jeanne’s Vizsla, Misty will be waiting for me when I am done with the dog.  Mewing like she has not been fed in days she will follow me around, rubbing against my legs until I make my way to the kitchen to feed her.  If I am wearing shorts in warm weather, I am dancing to get out of the way of the feline contact.  Once her dish is full, she will harass me for treats.

Book

I laugh at your literature!

She has stepped up her campaign to get me out of the house and ensure she has access to her favorite sleeping haunts.  She will walk across the keyboard on my laptop or just lay upon it staring at me as random letters rush across the screen.  She seems to be almost taunting me to pick her up and move her off.  She will rub all over my computer bag, lay on my coat.  At Christmas, she seemed to be ridiculing me by using a book on cat training as a pillow. It was a gift for Jeanne.

While sitting with Jeanne watching TV, Misty has been known to walk across the back of the sofa and start forcefully rubbing her head on the back and top of my head.  I do so love hives on my scalp!

I have been told that the allergy may resolve itself over time with more exposure to the cat.  I think, if Misty had a vote, I would have been dispatched from my intrusions into her world long before any allergy was overcome.

IMG_4637On the last two trips, she has violated our truce by urinating first near and then on my shoes after I came back from walking the dog. A small rivulet creeping away from the stain on top of the slip-on and running along the grout in the front hall tile. Nearby, she sat on the stairs, cleaning her fur and occasionally glancing in my direction.  I think she is throwing down the gauntlet.  I have challenged Misty to a final battle in the marsh along the Herb River behind Jeanne’s house.  It is still in doubt which one of us would emerge victorious after such a clash.

For now, I will start the Claritin D a week before heading to Savannah.  I will continue to avoid direct contact with Misty, as far as I am able.  Shoes or anything else I bring along with me will not be left out to be insulted by my catty antagonist.  I can only wonder what Misty has in store for me on my next trip south.  I know she is waiting for me.

cropped demon cat

Rivulet

Finding Modoc Stash or How I Detoured Three Hours For an Old Geocache

Before I tell you my story, I should take a moment and explain that I am a Geocacher.  Geocaching is a hobby in which people use multimillion-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods. That may be a flip oversimplification. A little more of a concise definition for Geocaching may be: hunting for and finding a hidden container, location, or event using GPS coordinates posted on a website. There are over 3 million Geocaches hidden, worldwide.  There are apps that you can use depending on what kind of phone you have. I use a Garman Oregon 450T, handheld GPS for most of my Geocaching trips.

GPSThe hobby became possible May 2, 2000, when the government turned off “Selected Availability” from the geospatial constellation of satellites that enable the Global Positioning System (GPS) to function.  On that May day, civilian use of those satellites became 10X more effective.  On 3 May the first “GeoStash” was hidden in Oregon to test the accuracy of the newly released satellite capability.

If you are not familiar with Geocaching, you can watch a quick Geocaching 101 video.

Now that you are caught up, I will tell you about my adventure.

I had planned a weekend trip to Savannah to see Jeanne in early April.  The weather has been a little crazy since March with some unseasonably cold weather; I was looking forward to a  warmer climate and some quality time with Jeanne.  I had taken a day off on Friday the 13th and planned to drive south.  Jeanne was going to be working; my goal was to arrive in Savannah for dinner.

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National Forest Map, South Carolina

While planning my trip, I was looking to see if there were any challenging Geocaches along the way to break up the seven-hour drive.  I have had my eye on the oldest cache in the State of South Carolina.  Modoc Stash (GCF4) was placed in December 2000 in the Sumter National Forest.  I have thought about coming here before but have had to change plans because of weather, hunting season or a lack of time.   The other issue is that an attempt to find this Geocache would take me over 135 miles out of my way, roughly a three-hour detour off my usual run to Savannah.

Why would a reasonably intelligent man drive 135 miles out of his way to find an ammo can in the woods? If you don’t have the Geocaching bug, you may not get it.  There were several draws for this hike.  First, it is a Y2K hide.  There are less than 175 of the original caches hidden in 2000 still active worldwide. On top of that, it is one of the rare remaining Y2K caches with a four place alphanumeric serial number.  Second, it helps me fill in some challenges.  I add a new county (McCormick) in South Carolina, fill in a new page for the South Carolina DeLorme Challenge (Page 42). This find qualified me for the April 2018 GeoChallenge of the Month.  Yes, I am a geek.

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The Trailhead along South Carolina Route 23

I left my house in Chesapeake just after 7 a.m. and began the trek south and west.  When I came upon the I-95/I-20 interchange in Florence, South Carolina, I went west on I-20 and started the detour hoping to get past Columbia, South Carolina’s Capitol, before Friday afternoon traffic became problematic.  Just after 3 p.m., I exited I-20 west of Aiken and worked my way along country highways until I arrived at the trailhead.   There is parking at this location and a geocache, Modoc Trailhead (GC7B2YZ),  is very close to the parking area.

I had a backpack with me with water, a couple of Kind bars, and some of my usual Geocaching gear.  I also had a walking stick. I usually do not use the Geocaching app on my iPhone for hikes like this one.  Instead, I had loaded my Garmin Oregon 450T with the coordinates for the caches along the trail.   I had the trailhead marked with the first cache that I mentioned in the previous paragraph, another along the path and finally the goal for the day, Modoc Stash.

I have some recommendations for this hike.  First, sturdy hiking boots.  Flip flops or sandals are not going to cut it on this trail.  Second, be aware of your surroundings.  This trail is shared with mountain bikers. You will want to keep a lookout for them.  There is also wildlife in the national forest.  There are over 48 species of mammals including bears, bobcats, beaver, and deer as well as a variety of venomous and non-venomous IMG_4623snakes. Finally, you need to stick to the trail until you get within about 200 feet of the cache location.  At the parking area, you will be about 1/3 of a mile from the target geocache.  That is a straight line reading.  You will not be able to do a straight line land navigation quickly.  Stick to the trail.  I know that switchbacks are a pain, but there are a few elevation changes and water obstacles to cross. Two of those water obstacles do not have bridges.  They are not difficult to handle. If you stick to the trail you will come on a geocache, Eclipsed in the Forest (GC7B2ZG), about halfway to Modoc Stash.  The hike to the old geocache is about 1.1 miles. One last point, I marked a waypoint where my Jeep was parked.  While I used the trail markings, I like to know the distance to the car on the way out.

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Stevens Creek

 

water crossing Modo

The first crossing point

 

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Modoc Stash in hand!

The hike was fun.  Early spring in South Carolina with the trees budding and some species of wildflowers in bloom is lovely. If you are interested in birds, there is no shortage of variety from songbirds to the big raptors and wild turkey.  The cool temps, in the low 60s, with a breeze kept the bugs to a minimum.  Once I was within 200 feet of the cache location, left the trail to head to “ground zero.”  Going off trail here is not a difficult bushwhack.  Once I was within 20 feet, I switched from my handheld GPS to my eyes and my “geosenses.”  Within a minute of getting to the general area, I had the ammo can in my hand. I traded some trackable items and signed the log.  It was time to head back to the Jeep and get back on the road to Savannah.

 

 

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The trail on the hike out.

 

I took a little over an hour to complete the hike and find three Geocaches.  I actually had a strong signal on my iPhone that enabled me to do a preliminary log for all the caches and document the trackable items exchanged at the old cache.

From the trailhead parking area, it took about three hours to complete the trip to Savannah.  I was at my destination around 7:30 p.m. in time to get cleaned up and go out for dinner.

The next Geocaching road trip for me will be to collect a group of Y2K Geocaches in northeast Georgia.  One will require a boat to get me out to an island in Lake Lanier.  A friend of mine completed that grouping a couple of weeks ago.  That trip will have to be more than just a detour on the way to Savannah! Perhaps I can convince Jeanne to partake in a little Geocaching adventure with me.

Click here if you would like more information the trails in the Sumter National Forest.

Partake

 

Parking Garage Photo Collection

I am absent-minded when I park my ride.  If I am heading to the airport, hospital, shopping mall, or a work location to give a presentation I usually space out where I left my wheels.  It is actually a little embarrassing.

I have had enough of walking through parking lots or garages with my hand in the air pushing the lock button and waiting for the horn to sound. Sometimes I end up hitting the panic button and waiting for the full cacophony of headlights and horns and discover that I am on the wrong level.  That leads me to my next mystery, did the sound come from the level above or the level below? I am hoping that someone reading this post is thinking “Oh yeah, I have done that!”

I have begun using the camera on my iPhone to record where I have left my Jeep.   This usually means that the clue to the location of my car is just a few swipes away in the picture folder on my phone. An example to the left is of the long-term parking garage at the Norfolk International Airport.  I snapped that on my last business trip out to San Antonio.  That was only an overnight trip, and I had to pull out the phone at baggage claim to remind me where I had left the Jeep the previous morning. (The airline made me check my small suitcase because the overhead compartments were almost nonexistent on the flight from Charlotte to Norfolk.)

On Friday, 22 December, I had an appointment at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia.  I arrived to find the communal garage pretty full, even for the Friday before Christmas.

After circling the first and second levels for a few minutes, I finally found someone pulling out of a spot.  Once in the parking space, I mindlessly pulled out my phone and snapped a photo of the closest location sign to where my Jeep sat waiting for me. I heard a small laugh behind me.  When I turned around a woman, walking in the same direction as I, looked at me and smiled. I was busted getting my photographic waypoint before heading for my outpatient procedure.  “That is actually a good idea,” she said.  We chatted as we headed to the elevator about the joys of the times when we had not remembered where we parked.  It is easy enough to do in some of the larger parking lots or multiple story parking structures that have become ubiquitous in modern life.

As I waited for orthopedics to see me, I scrolled through my phone and found about two dozen shots of parking lot location signs from all over the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.  There are also shots of street signs and neighborhood streets in Savannah and Washington, D.C. where I have found on street parking.

You may think that I am a forgetful middle-aged man who is overly reliant on a photographic prompt to find my car.  But next time you are wandering from row to row trying to find your wheels in stormy weather or dragging luggage behind you, I will be making a beeline for my Jeep, currently parked on Level 3, Aisle D.  Safe travels, my friends!


Communal

Gotham Writers Workshop Assignment

I recently completed a creative writing course through the Gotham Writers Workshop.  The following short post is the updated draft of the third week’s assignment for Individuality.  It is a rant piece on something I hate.

Sand

I hate sand.  I have always hated sand.  When I was a child, my mother would take my siblings and me to the beach at Breezy Point.  Only in her late twenties, she would haul her five children out of Brooklyn in a station wagon full of towels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and beach toys.  Once at Breezy Point she would first take me out to the beach, spread out a big blanket and place my three-year-old butt in the center.  Only then would she go back and grab the rest of my siblings with one of her girlfriends schlepping the gear needed to keep five kids, all under the age of 7, entertained for a day at the beach. Mom would not worry about me wandering off my cotton island in the sand.  I hated the feel of it burning my feet, on my skin and in my hair. I hated the taste of it in my mouth.  Most kids bring pails and shovels to the beach, I brought a hand broom and fought my first battle in the sand.

I still hate the texture, the way it gets into everything, and never seems to go completely away. It collected in my boots, scratched my glasses and never really shook out of my desert camouflage uniform. It concealed explosives and absorbed blood, the stain from either only lasting a few hours before being covered. Giant storms of it would blow and envelope everything in its path.  The sun could not completely penetrate the huge clouds rolling across the desert. Sand could steal the horizon and any sense of safety I had retained.  The taste of it was always in my mouth, I breathed it in and coughed it up.

I hate that it took a body as quickly as a bullet took a life.  I hate how it covered mass graves and weapons caches.  Even when heavy equipment was brought in to move it, you knew it was only a matter of time before the sand would undo all the effort to displace it.

No amount of washing those uniforms seems to be able to get rid of all the sand.  Even now,  14 years later, I can pull out the big plastic bags in which my combat uniforms are stored, and I will still find the powdery off-white substance that fuels my nightmares. It makes my skin crawl.

Everyone laughed at me and thought I was weird when I was three years old because I would go to such lengths to avoid contact with sand.  Forty years later, I remembered what I knew as a very young boy. I have no use for sand.