billie

How to hail a cab

by Michael Alderete on 11/17/2004

Billie is our littlest, sweetest cat. She’s a shut-in. Trapped in our bedroom by a roaming Basta policing the hallways (and any other room she’s not been chased out of), and frequently harrassed by a doting Luigi, who just wants to be her bestest friend, Billie retreats from the world when we’re not home, spending her time on her cat condo, under the bed, or in the closet.

That doesn’t mean she’s lost her curiosity, or thirst for adventure. She loves to visit other rooms in the house, especially the office, where we’ve set up a semi-permanent (but movable) bed on top of the printer, close to Rochelle. And she loves to go out to the back deck, and chew on whatever plants Rochelle is currently torturing.

But, how to get to other rooms, or the great outdoors, when the highways and byways of the house are controlled by the Evil Basta? There’s really only one way that’s safe from ambush: a cab rid on our shoulders. Billie loves to jump up — from the bed when she can, from the ground when she must — and cling to our shoulders, neck, or back, and be transported at a safe altitude to other, more exiting places. We’ve come to recognize the look on her face that says she’s coming aboard, and usually manage to crouch down lower, so her leap doesn’t involve quite as much claw when she lands.

The thing is, we’re often not in the bedroom. Mostly not in the bedroom. So, when we’re too far away, she’s taken to hailing us.

It’s a distinctive, insistent lowing that borders on a whine. She’s used it for some time to tell us she wants something, but it’s usually been food or attention. We know what it means in a general way, but lately it’s been more specific: come get me, and take me somewhere. Her chariot arrives, she leaps aboard, and the game’s afoot. Fun!

Tonight, she even started giving directions. When I came to pick up my fare, she kept on yelling, especially when I headed in the wrong direction. When I finally realized she wanted the back deck, she quieted, and lept off immediately when she arrived at her intended destination.

No tip.

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It started with the idea of replacing our 12 year old (hideously cat vomit-stained) carpet. After searching for a while, Rochelle finally found a great carpet that should be durable and look terrific. (Rumors that we color-matched against current stains can neither be confirmed nor denied.) But then, the real scope of the project became, if not clear, at least a topic of discussion. We would need to paint all three rooms that were getting the new carpet. And the hallway.

This past weekend was phase 1 of what will surely be a 5+ phase project. Colors were chosen, paint and tools acquired. Rochelle took Friday off, and we emptied our bedroom, and started prepping the walls. Which led to the second unfortunate discovery, that the wallpaper under the paint was sagging and bulging in places, and basically came off like peeling a bad sunburn. Three hours later, we had stripped off two of the four layers from half the bedroom, and sensibly called a halt to further destruction.

(Side note: the first unfortunate discovery came weeks earlier, when Rochelle went to start stripping off the wallpaper, and discovered she was peeling the paper off the front of the sheetrock that had replaced one wall. After she’d peeled half the wall. We became convinced there was no wallpaper in the room. We were wrong. The only place without wallpaper was where Rochelle started peeling. Unfortunate discoveries are a part of home improvements if your home is a Victorian…)

Saturday David arrived, took charge, and made us start painting what we could. Nothing is more motivating than seeing fresh paint on your ceiling and walls, and we got a lot done (while also going through three bottles and one magnum of sparkling wine).

Sunday, supposed to be the last day, it was back to the damaged walls. Lots of Fix-It-All and sanding. And dust. Lots of dust. This was a lot of work, and while we put a second coat on the ceiling and picture rail, and a first coat on one wall (which looked terrible, because we stupidly decided not to take off the last layer of wallpaper), we didn’t paint much.

Monday Rochelle went back to work, and I finished stripping walls, and then painted like crazy. Finally the room was starting to look good again. Tuesday saw the “final” coats of paint, followed by some hole patching, that will require, you guessed it, another coat of paint. I am very, very tired of painting.

Tomorrow I’ll paint one last time, one wall and some touching up, and tomorrow night, barring more unfortunate discoveries, we’ll move our bed back into the room, which should make the cats, if not happy, on the road to happy. (Ironically, the cats have not been taking the project well. Billie was so stressed out the first night that she, you guessed it, puked on the floor.)

Then it’s on to the parlor and office, both of which are bigger than the bedroom.

I think 2004 is going to be the Year of Paint.

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