Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Adam, My Star

I realize that most of my subject matter in these pages is terribly dry and prosaic. It consists, after all, mostly of matters such as digging holes and patching wood. These are not things that readily stir the heart or fire the imagination.

I of course do my best to present this subject matter in an entertaining way, but even the most adroit wordsmithing can only go so far towards making silk purses out of these sow's ears.

And so, to bridge the remaining gulf between informative and entertaining, I have long relied upon our Pet Division. I'm always snapping pictures of our dogs and cats, and very early in the blog's history I started trying to work them into my posts as a way to provide some visual relief.

The pet I have most relied upon for this function is Adam. This has not been a matter of favoritism, really; it's just a practical result of his having been my constant companion (with time out for litter box breaks, of course), combined with my always having a camera on my hip or within reach. Well, one must also consider his wild good looks and expressive face. 

Let's face it: the camera loved Adam. Adam was the star of this blog.

With your kind indulgence, I'd like this post to serve as a commemoration of Adam's significant contribution to these pages, and also, for the time being, as a token of his significant contribution to my life.

Adam's first appearance was actually in a video, a wrasslin' match with Benny shot when he was nine months old: "It's Movie Night!" Adam and Benny's fights were always quite entertaining and often quite epic.

Adam's first photographic appearance in these pages was on May 8, 2011, in the post "Better Living in Two Parts, Part Two."

I was describing how before I got to work on the house that morning, I brought Adam, Benny and Travis out to get some sun; I included a photograph of each to illuminate the text. It's one of my favorite pictures of him, because it looks for all the world as if a small wild lynx had somehow wandered into the back yard looking for prey.

It not only captures his relentlessly inquisitive nature, but also his impressive stature. Adam was a long cat: nearly 45 inches from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail, once he finished growing. They simply don't come much longer than that. In point of fact, the Guinness Book of World Records Longest Cat in The World is also a Maine coon, and he is 48 1/2 inches long. It is thus verifiably not hyperbole to say that they don't come much longer than Adam.

Adam was long, lean and stronger than most dogs three times his size, and you can see all that in this picture. And he hadn't finished growing when this picture was taken. He was only a petite 3 feet long at this point.

Adam was the subject, and the inspiration, of the first coda picture I ever posted: May 27, 2011, in the post "No Snickers, Please":

No rinsing needed.

I recall coming into the kitchen, seeing Adam sitting there looking so nonchalant, suppressing my laughter, and having the good fortune to find my camera right there on the kitchen table. The caption came to me immediately when I looked at the photo, and it occurred to me that this would be a great thing to put at the end of my next post. I was so pleased with the result that I resolved to make a concluding photo of our pets--what I now call a coda picture--a regular feature. Since then, there have been few posts without one, and it all started with Adam.

The next post, two days later, was of another Adam/Benny combat video ("Million Dollar Movie"), this time with the two battling for possession of the love seat in the den. It is one of the top four posts in the blog's history. A coda picture seemed duplicative here, so I left it out.

But I was back at it the next day ("Breezin' Along with The Breeze"):

"Nobody here but us dogs."

This shows another distinct character trait of Adam's: he was quite democratic. As long as you were of a predator species, he was willing to take you as you were. He was as likely to hang out with the dogs as with his fellow cats. As you can see in dear Nellie's face, this made the dogs a bit uneasy at first, but they tolerated it, and in time became comfortable with it. Nowadays, our dogs and cats form a unified pack and mingle comfortably, although Adam's little cousin Rosalie is the only one who actually will cuddle up with the dogs. Perhaps it's a Maine coon thing.

I have a great number of photos with Adam hanging out with the dogs, but only two others made it into these pages. Here's the next one:

Absit invidia.
(from "A Posse Ad Esse", 7-20-11)

Adam has made himself so completely at home that he is grooming himself, and practically leaning on Travis while he does it. Travis' "what the---?" expression bespeaks an offended sense of propriety, but it's really just a karmic payback, because as a puppy he did the same thing to our first Maine coon, dear Roger:

Judging from the look on Roger's face, his forbearance here in not smiting Travis on the sconce is masterful.

I should explain all the Latin I'm throwing around here. Absit invidia means "let there be no ill will;" it's a phrase that is customarily used, similarly to "no offense intended," to smooth over small offenses before they become big ones. The phrase in the post title, A posse ad esse, translates most accurately (I think) as "from potentiality to actuality," but I like to translate it in this case as "I finally figured out how to do it, so I done went and did it." The post was a review of several difficult tasks that I had somehow managed to complete successfully. The Latin title induced me to provide Latin captions for each photo, and I naturally carried that theme through to the coda picture.

Here's the third Adam + Dog coda picture, again with Travis, who's a pretty photogenic fellow himself:

"You missed a spot."
(from "Reunion", 11-9-11)

Travis' unruffled "really, dude?" expression here reflects his and Nellie's gradual acceptance of the fact of Adam's frequent propinquity.

As I said, Adam was just as likely to hang out with his fellow felines:

Must be dinnertime.
(from "Unpacking A Mess", 6-19-12)

Oh, look! There's our dear CEO Emeritus, Evangeline! She and Adam had a sweet mother-son relationship.

"Kenneth, what is the frequency?"
(from "A Rather Irksome Revelation", 9-18-11)

"Our minds are one: I feel what you feel; I know what you know."

For one who grew up watching Star Trek, the above caption wrote itself. It was during a period where Adam was putting out Trek vibes. At first he was doing Spock:

"Live long and prosper."
(from "Writing Stories", 8-29-11)

But he soon switched to doing Kirk, which I think is perfect casting:

(from "Inch by Inch, Step by Step", 9-7-11)

One day when I was working on rehabilitating the north windows, I left one open, and soon Adam appeared, standing on the sill majestically like the Lion King looking out upon his domain. He was six and a half months old, just starting a massive growth spurt, and it was the first time I saw the bold, majestic, royal bearing that was to become his hallmark. Our little kitten was growing up. It gave me an idea, and I assembled a story arc of coda pictures that ran with the next five posts:

Space: the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. . .
. . .its ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds. . .
. . .to seek out new life and new civilizations. . .
. . .to boldly go where no man has gone before.
(starting from "Regaining Focus", 10-22-11)

I love every picture in this sequence. The second one, with Adam and Benny on top of the cat stand, accurately captures the character of each, right down to their bling: Adam the star, of course, and always-impeccably-groomed wing man Benny with his bow tie. Benny still has his bow tie, but all the information has worn off of it. He needs new bling.

The three middle ones taken together remind me that much of the time, Adam, Benny and I were the Three Musketeers--or, perhaps more accurately, the Three Stooges. The last picture is easily the edgiest one I've posted here, but I had to use it: it fit the caption perfectly. I hasten to add that I shooed Adam down from there right after I took the picture.

* * *

Looking back reminds me how easy it was to write captions for Adam's photos: they were all dictated by the expression on his face, which always seemed to convey a distinct mood, thought or sentiment:

I. Am. Awesome.
(from "Overnight Thread", 8-6-11)

Of course, this brought an immediate rebuttal from Evangeline:

I invented awesome.
(from "Epoxy Revelations", 8-10-11)

Which begat this response from Adam:

"Thirteen pounds, nine and a half ounces of wild feline awesomeness."

Later, his niece did this homage:

"I. Am. Fabulous."
(from "Board Surfing", 8-5-12)

She has since only become more fabulous, I assure you.

More of the many moods of Adam:

"You want cute? I can do cute."
(from "Vision Quest", 10-4-11)

"Your nail set's stuck in your hair."
(from "Furnace Gap, 1943-2011", 11-17-11)

"Shouldn't there be a big pointy tree with lots of prey on it here by now?"

"Let's see. . .f/5.6 at 1/125 sec. That should work. Now where's the danged shutter button?"
(from "Rendezvous at Furnace Gap", 11-10-11)

"Words fail me."
(from "Aftermath", 12-16-11)

He who controls the remote, controls the future.
(from "Goofus And Gallant", 6-19-14)

There are some stories only cats can hear.
(from "CSI: House", 5-4-2015)

Occasionally, I was smart enough simply to allow the photograph to speak for itself.

I've been doing pretty well so far, but I have to admit that this last photo chokes me up a bit. It captures his spirit so very well: sweet, forthright, fearless.

These next two are my favorite Adam coda pictures, because each has a significant story behind it.

The wily Forest Cat returns to his lair with the day's catch.

I love this photo because some of my fondest memories of Adam involve his carrying this big dog toy throughout the house as if it were fresh-killed prey, looking for a safe place to put it. Someday I'll tell you all about this remarkable, endearing and at times hilarious aspect of Adam's character, but it's too long and involved a story for this already Brobdingnagian post.

We had a set of these dog toys, and although the crocodile was far and away his favorite, he at times used all of them as prey, as we see in the next photo:

"I bring you this offering of fresh-killed prey in token of my appreciation for your fealty."
(from "Well, How 'Bout That", 3-17-12)

Despite the slight astringency of the caption, this was quite a tender moment, one that marked a turning point in our relationship. While Adam was from the first my constant companion, up to the time of this picture (he was then a few weeks past his second birthday) he was not particularly affectionate. Not that he wasn't friendly, but he was not terribly interactive unless we were playing. He always seemed preoccupied, as if he were listening to the call of the wild.

Then one day, as I sat in the den working at my laptop, he walked in, laid his prey gently on the floor before him, then sat down and gazed at me with solemn significance for quite a long moment, just as you see above. Before this, Adam and I were packmates. From this moment on, we were soulmates. He was more engaged, more interactive, more in the moment. He became quite talkative. Most importantly, on every remaining day we had together he became more and more affectionate, and more and more happy.

I can't offer any explanation for the seemingly sudden transformation other than it was a natural part of Adam's maturation. Maine coons grow up very gradually, typically continuing to grow until they are five years old. Such was the case with Adam; his little cousin actually grew visibly after her fifth birthday. Remarkably, this last growth spurt resulted in her resembling Adam, whereas before she had no particular physical resemblance other than her markings. I can't explain that at all.

* * *

The last coda picture in which Adam appeared was posted on December 15, 2015, in the post "For the Birds, Part 1":

The Wily Forest Cat lies in wait for his prey, after having hidden all the remotes.

Adam could be found here quite regularly at this time whenever the whole pack was together in the den; he had a habit of adopting a place as his base of operations, and then sticking to it for some time. In this, he was just like Roger. In this photo, Adam is looking down at Peter, which puts me in mind of another photograph, taken the night the two met:

Adam was utterly baffled regarding what sort of creatures we had brought into the house, and he spent the next several days surveilling them until he determined at last that they were, in fact, dogs.

Adam's last appearance in these pages before his passing was in "The Big Pedagogy", just two posts ago on March 7, 2016:

Loungers lounging in the Lounge.

This represented my first attempt to bring the idea of the coda picture right smack dab into the middle of the narrative, to leaven an especially-dry subject with a little humor and a lot of personality and charm. And these are---were---my go-to guys for that.

* * *

I thank you all from the deepest part of me for your kind indulgence of my reverie.