I don’t need seven cats

al-Zill, on the other hand, makes me reconsider.

Without a doubt he suffers from neurological damage.  Such a feline cannot survive in the wild.  Had he not already taken up residence on my patio, what with constant attention, food, water, shelter, and protection, he undoubtedly would be dead.

A simple stretch tumbles him to the ground, his front or back legs failing the commands necessary to achieve such uncomplicated physical movements.

Walking appears sound most of the time, yet even that basic task intermittently resembles frenzied chaos.

Running?  Perhaps he can and perhaps he can’t.  Sometimes he seems more a fish out of water, a writhing mass of black fur flailing about on the ground, no traction beneath sliding feet, no coordination amongst four legs destined to leave him easy prey.

As I’ve grown to know him, I’ve likewise grown to understand better the once massive wound atop his head, the one in front and at the base of his left ear, the one originally infected and bleeding and oozing puss so vehemently as to seem fatal.

You see, that very wound coincides with a dislocation of his lower jaw, one that leaves his mouth agape and his teeth showing on the left side.

A coyote, most likely, were I to conclude such a thing based on the damage alone.

A hinged vice such as the jaws of most animals creates bidirectional force.  One seems logical: a compression between two opposing pieces, a squeezing of that caught in its grasp.

The other?  Perpendicular to the force exerted, a pressure shoving the object held away from the hinge.

To wit: Hold a glass in your hand.  Stretch your fingers out straight, and then squeeze.  You’ll find the glass pushed away from as much as pinned between your fingers.

Large enough to grasp his head in its grip, such a force could explain the head wound and the dislocated jaw, both perfectly aligned with a gaping maw I cannot see.

Perhaps a cracked skull or a tooth pierced to the brain tells the tale al-Zill cannot convey.  I suspect as much.

In my quest to leave the city behind, something to happen as quickly as I can work it out, abandoning him in this place to fend for himself with so many of his superior instincts and capabilities crippled by this attack would beg the question of my own humanity, my own sense of mercy and care for others.

What of a shelter?  Only a no-kill shelter would keep him alive, for any other would put him down with expeditious cruelty.  A “special needs” cat is unlikely to be adopted, they would claim.  And they would be right.

In other settings where his problems did not spell certain doom, chances of adoption would fall off dramatically due to the very same issues I’ve already mentioned.  Who wants a cat with brain damage, one who has difficulty functioning normally (albeit on a limited basis)?  Who wants a cat not always aware or in control of bodily functions?

Would you so readily adopt such a predator, taking him home with full knowledge of the difficulties ahead?  How many would?

My soul cringes at the thought of leaving him to such chance, to what destiny hope and opportunity could provide for such a creature.

Nay, poppets, I shan’t wear the spirit’s scars made from that decision.  I can’t.  I won’t.  To bear such eternal anguish frightens me.

Same but different

An interesting yet unintentional dichotomy via photography.  The scene is the same: My favorite spot, the lone pier in Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake.  The view: What I enjoy each time I can as I step onto the wooden planks that will carry me to this most meditative of spots.

Taken 8:55:35 AM CST on January 21, 2008, a cold morning when frozen fingers hindered my walk by making image captures near impossible.


Taken 9:49:28 AM CST on January 26, 2008, a morning defined by a continuity of gray that finally melted before strong winds and midmorning sun.


What a pleasure I felt at the discovery of this interesting comparison, this contrast between cold and clear and the subsequent warm and foggy landscape.

February feathers

Before all hell broke loose at work and I lost the majority of my time to the demands of employment, I enjoyed a leisurely walk at White Rock Lake early on the morning of February 2.  While this by no means encompasses the totality of the photographs taken that day, it does present a nice avian menagerie representative of that glorious experience.  You can expect more later.

Ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) preening and sunbathing on a pier (20080202_01679)

The most ubiquitous species of its kind here at the lake, ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) enjoyed a casual sunrise on the pier in Sunset Bay, my favorite spot to sit and meditate in the company of this urban oasis and all the nature it has to offer.

I especially like the juvenile on the right caught with its leg outstretched while grooming (I believe that’s second-winter plumage).

Three female house sparrows (Passer domesticus) perched on one of the pier's support columns (20080202_01693)

Three female house sparrows (Passer domesticus) perched atop one of the pier’s supports as they undoubtedly gossiped and spoke of the ungrateful men in their lives.  You can almost hear the cackling and goings on, the talk of no shopping money left in the nest when “those men” disappeared all too early, the discussion about who really has to raise the young’uns while others gallivant around the countryside as if they haven’t a care in the world.

A male downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) hanging upside-down as he searches for a meal (20080202_01715)

A male downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) spent a great deal of time hunting the outer branches of this tree in search of food.  His female counterpart, also in the same tree, never left the dense shadows of its thick trunk.

Only later did I realize this is normal behavior, the male commandeering thinner branches while he forces the female to stay lower in the tree.  Apparently he knows where the better insects hide.

A female European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) high in a tree facing into the morning sun (20080202_01741)

A female European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) sat high in a tree facing the sun, making photography rather difficult lest I stand facing her.  Such is the result.

She made a great deal of noise as I approached her nest (hidden in a hollow limb).  When I didn’t pass by uncaring of her presence, she bellowed out a series of demands that I move along immediately.  Too bad she remained in the tree’s upper branches and in a position that forced me into a singular view of her (from in front and below).

A male pekin duck (Anas domesticus) swimming near the bank of a creek (20080202_01768)

A male pekin duck (a.k.a. domestic duck, white pekin duck, or Long Island duck; Anas domesticus) swam by me as I walked along the banks of Dixon Branch (one of the many creeks that feed into White Rock Lake).  He paused briefly to look at me, perhaps a question as to my intent or a quick pondering of my obvious inability to swim.

In either case, he made a rather nice portrait with his deep blue eyes and illustrious whiteness.

A close-up of a rock dove (Columba livia) looking at me as I pass by (20080202_01759)

A rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia), one among many, paused momentarily as it glanced at me while I trundled along pretending I hadn’t noticed all of them feasting on breakfast.

Why Zooomr can go to hell

And Kris Tate along with it.

As if the plethora of problems since the botched Mark III implementation weren’t enough, and as if the migration to the Japanese data center hadn’t created its own pains for those using the image hosting service, today marked a new and unimaginable low for Kristopher Tate and his Zooomr catastrophe.

My entire account is gone.  As all are of my images.

Not just the last six months that went missing when it came time to move this debacle to Japan.  Oh no!  Now it’s all of them.

I can’t even login to the service without having to traipse through the “new user account” process.

As of today, I simply don’t exist.  And I had a “Pro” account.

When Zooomr began taking money for its service, it stopped being a beta.  Period.  You can play that game elsewhere, but betas don’t cost money and don’t charge for additional functionality.

Them’s the facts, you buncha idiots.

As of today, I’m migrating to Flickr.  All new photos will go there, as has been the case for some time, and all old images will be migrated as time permits.

This disaster has been nothing short of a cataclysmic example of why some internet companies should never attempt to be anything other than a garage-based hobby for some acne-ridden, mindless twit who hasn’t a clue.

This is the big world, Kris.  Things out here don’t forgive and forget when it comes to almost a year of problems topped off with an utter and complete failure.

What you’ve done is screwed the living daylights out of us, your users that you claim to love so much, and you’ve forced us into a predicament where it will take a great deal more time and energy to recover from your ineptness than it did to invest time and money in what has amounted to a complete fiasco turned miscarriage.

The fact that I can no longer even rely on Zooomr to properly host my uploaded images or recognize me as a legitimate longtime user means you have betrayed the very people you need to survive.  Betrayed us in the most unforgivable ways, too.

Pathetic and pitiful.

I’m outta here.

We’ll see if Zooomr can ever get its act together.

Jack’s legacy

This room is too small.  It is oppressive and dank with the smell of stale cigarette smoke mixed with the air freshener that fails to cover the stench.  It’s just after four o’clock in the afternoon on a bright and sunny Monday.  I have been in this room every Monday afternoon for the last year resting upon the same earth-toned vinyl couch that always embraces me too tightly, an uncomfortable and bothersome seating arrangement if ever one existed, although I can admit that it’s made more so by frustration and the reason for my visits than by the couch’s nature.  My bare legs and arms stick to it where they meet the vinyl directly.  Damn this searing Texas heat, and why doesn’t the air conditioner in this office make it any more bearable?

I don’t remove my sunglasses.  I never do when I’m here.  Viewing the world in swirling darkness is a defense mechanism, especially here where I am expected to face existence directly.  I know I’m hiding in my own way, and I don’t care.  I gaze upon the room and its contents with the impartiality and detachment my sunglasses provide.  Behind the impenetrable tint, my eyes wander the room aimlessly.  Surely there must be something here to hold my interest.  There never is, but I never fail to search for a new diversion that will make this a little easier to endure.

I slowly close my eyes in the crushing silence.  They remain closed only for a brief moment as I try mentally to escape this experience, to seal myself off from the world at large, to be anywhere but here.

Jack, my psychiatrist, undoubtedly maintains his silence in preparation for leveling his newest judgment.  I say that, but it won’t be a judgment in the strictest sense.  How I deplore these awkward hushes; they always seem to proclaim some pending doom, but that’s always in my head.  Why doesn’t he just get it over with already?

The lit cigarette dangles clumsily from his thin parched lips.  I’ve played this game for a year now: certainly it will fall this time, spurring him to leap to his feet while madly brushing away the ashes and cinders and desperately attempting to stymie any damage to his furniture.  Alas, my hopes for such entertainment are never fulfilled.

When he speaks, Jack’s southern twang drips from him like tree sap, a slow drawl that could easily sedate an elephant.  I originally thought this was not conducive to proper psychiatric evaluation and treatment.  I learned over time that he was sharp as a tack, highly intelligent and insightful in ways that some would find troubling.  He wasn’t infallible, though.  That’s probably why I dislike him now.

I watch the smoke from the tip of his cigarette as it wafts upward in front of his face, flitting lightly through his hair in acrid little puffs and streams.  It rises above him and eventually filters into the light streaming in from the window just behind and above him.  Watching him smoke during these sessions always keeps my mind off my own desire for a cigarette.  Somehow being exposed to the habit in someone else under circumstances such as these inhibits my desire, so while he speaks I focus my attention on this eerily silent dance of plumes.

He asks me question after question in this false communion of minds.  “Are you still angry at the world?  Have you accepted yourself?  Or, do you still resent who you are?”  Each question rattles from his bony frame with conviction, one after the other, his deep relaxing voice attempting to calm and engage, and he hesitates only slightly between each inquiry.  The pause seems just long enough for me to ignore him blatantly.

I understand the questions.  “You’re angry.  You’re hurt.  Derek’s death changed you in ways you don’t like.  You obsess about trying to be different than who you are, and you blame the world because you don’t think you’re like them.  This makes you lonely.  Why must you be this way?”

There are times when I’m unclear on precisely what he says because my own mind translates for me on the terms under which I attend these sessions.  Those terms have rapidly changed in the near past, so his words flow over me as our mutual fascination subsides.  He knows I will not answer him at this point.  Instead, I wait him out, and he takes the cue and moves on with only subtle hesitation should I slip up and grace him with a response.  One might call him a master of the strategic pause.  I like to think I helped him develop that gift.

My eyes shaded behind sunglasses, my sight comes to rest upon the window residing above his head.  Sunlight swims through the glass and smoke with lazy interest.  I wonder how many times during the last twelve months I rested my eyes upon that same window seen through the same predictable wafts of cigarette smoke.

Beyond Jack and the smoke and the window is visible the intolerable brightness of the day.  I see blue sky out there.  How boring, and it bounds in all directions with indefinite deliberateness, mocking me in some way no one else understands.  How unnecessarily cheery and inviting.  While I can’t see them from this view, I know the grass and trees are prospering right now, verdant and virile in such an agreeable environment.  I am angrily jealous.  For a year I sat here decaying, and for a year I watched Jack slowly dying of cancer.  I may not be healed yet., but at least I’m not him.  And, at least I’ve gained some enlightenment from our sessions.  All he’s gained is more cancer.  I suppose it makes no sense for him to quit now.

Burned almost to the filter, I am relieved to see him tamp his cigarette against the glass ashtray that rests on an imitation macassar ebony end table sitting just beside his chair.  How pretentious that table is.  I see he’s distracted, curiously staring at the ashtray as he absently tamps his cigarette again before crushing it into the bottom of the receptacle.  His face remains turned away from me while his shallow and distant gaze hangs there like a curiosity.  The cigarette now relinquished to the ashtray, his fingers silently strum and trace meaningless outlines on the table.  Sometimes he brushes lightly against the ashtray.  He speaks again as I wonder if he’s still talking to me.

“I believe you’re on the verge of a breakthrough.  You’ve come so far already.”

Only during the last few months was this routine in our sessions.  I am not certain if he believes this to be true, if he ever did, or if he stopped believing it.  I just doubt he’s sincere.  How long can I be on the verge of a breakthrough without actually breaking through?  Three months?  Six months?  A year?  And what breakthrough?  Can I get a clue here?  Is asking for guidance too much to ask of my psychiatrist?

There is silence.

“Do you still think your life has gone wrong?” Jack asks of me after a moment.  “Do you still think it’s impossible to survive with who you are?  Who you became after Derek’s death?”  The words fall limply between us, somehow weakened and overcome by the smoke-filled air.  Times like this make me think some magical force is at work between us.  It keeps us in opposite dimensions so that our minds work in completely opposite ways.  My being repels his words and rejoices to see them fall.  Does he have to sweep the carpet more often because of it?  I can’t help but wonder if the words fall listlessly to the floor below and eventually cause piles to form that must be swept up.  Are they visible in the dustpan if it’s the right color?

I like Jack.  Jack’s a very smart man.  Jack taught me a great deal.  Jack helped me in ways I can never thank him for nor acknowledge.  Jack will be missed.  Despite all of this, his words lack sufficient energy to support any real connection with me.

“Yes.”  I’m correcting him, not answering his questions.  My own voice surprises me.  It seems hoarse and removed.  Answers swim inside my mind, immediately surfacing, undeniably accessible.  Without hesitation, I say, “Yes on all counts.”

My gaze snaps down to his pad of paper where he suddenly jots down a few notes.  I laugh although I’m not sure if it’s audible or just inside my head.  His scribbling reminds me of a chicken I saw once at a family farm in New York.  That bird stood on dry dirt, a simple patch of barren barnyard that didn’t seem to offer anything of interest at that moment, and he scratched aimlessly here and there, clucking happily and kicking up dust the whole time.  There was a mad fervor in it.  Jack’s hurried writing looks the same way.  Is he even listening to me?  Has he ever listened to me?  I bet he’s writing a grocery list.  Maybe’s it’s a suicide note resulting from lethal boredom.

If I don’t blame all of my woes on the world, who’s responsible for my despair?  Why do I feel ostracized?  I can’t imagine I’m expected to take responsibility.  My life couldn’t possibly be the result of my direction.  Who I have become must be the result of someone else’s machinations.  I can’t seem to be normal and no one seems to accept me.  Admitting that this catastrophe is my fault doesn’t sound like any fun at all.

Growing up, I wanted nothing more than to be just like everyone else: a normal kid living in a middle class neighborhood.  I wanted a girlfriend and to get married in the future.  I wanted to fit in.  I wanted to graduate high school and go on to college and then a good job.  But I was fighting myself the whole time.  I seem to contradict inherently some critical parts of those dreams.  If I’m a joke to the world, and I fear I am, I don’t get the punch line.

I see the vibrantly alive people around me and want nothing more than to be like them.  No matter how hard I try, however, I can’t make it work.  My wails are primordial.  Is it any wonder that I left my parents’ house when I was seventeen?  That I ran headlong and alone into the real world without anything but the help of a few friends?  I walked the fine line that separates starvation from survival and spent time on both sides of it.  Essentially poor and surviving need to need is as real as it gets.  If nothing more, it’s as real as I ever wanted it to be.

But what is real now?  I blink at the dust.  Hanging smoke lingers evidently in the sunlight.  I am thankful for the sunglasses yet again.  They’re real: the sunglasses that shield me from direct human contact are real.  That’s one thing.  So is the scorching Texas heat that is equal parts unbearable and sensual.  Real is signing that check every month to pay for my psychiatric addiction.  It’s lamentations and miseries.  It’s joys and triumphs.  Ultimately, real is what it’s made to be by circumstance and design.  I just prefer not to have my name on the blueprints for this one.

Jack lights another cigarette.  His lips purse about the filter as he drags on it with brief intent.  My eyes search upward to find their normal view and happen upon the glowing end of the cigarette for just a moment.  It brightens with red anger before quickly fading to smoldering embers again, a transition marked by a sudden increase in smoke coming from that end.  I allow myself to be fascinated with this.  I’m thankful for the diversion no matter how soon it’s over.  I’m glad I’m still wearing my sunglasses.  He turns and looks at me finally.  “And?” he asks.

My head shakes with the same despair I came here to resolve.  Why have I come no further than this?  Is it his fault?  Should I hate him?  No, it’s not his fault.  I might as well accuse the blasted sun shining through the window overhead.  As for hating him, I can’t hate the sky for not providing a severe thunderstorm to match my demeanor, so I can’t hate him.  Jack helped me more than he’ll ever know, certainly more than he can even suspect before he dies, yet his help, cloaked to him though it may be, got me to where I am now: able to admit that I’m not like the other boys in the schoolyard and need to face my own blundering before it tears me apart.  It would be silly to hate him.

His interjection startles me for the first time ever.  I skip it like a graceful stumble on ice skates, dancing over his words about some new prescription I might try and some mental exercises he’d like me to do.  I agree unconsciously the same way I have agreed before.  I don’t think I need it anymore, much the same way I didn’t need it from the start.  They’re all the same anyway, yes?  The drugs and the little games we play with our own personality for the sake of analysis?  Life is fine the way it is at this very moment.  It doesn’t need to change.  I need to change, just not in the way I believed when I first came to Jack’s office.  I wish I could say he is responsible for my new direction.  He certainly helped.  He doesn’t know that.  He wouldn’t understand.

I tell him this is our last visit.  I don’t need him anymore.  I’m just not sure if I mean I don’t need him now or never did, or if I need something but not him.  Nevertheless, I know these sessions are over.  They accomplish nothing.

I stand up and adjust my sunglasses.  The bottom of the window is now at eye level.  I see trees blowing lazily in the wind, the sun shining vigorously down on them, and nothing but blue sky stretched in all directions.  What a great day to go to the lake.

— — — — — — — — — —

I didn’t see Jack after that.  I didn’t think I needed to.  He’d taught me all that I needed to know by then, at least that he could teach me, and it was enough to get me on the path I needed.  I was mad at him.  I was also thankful.  I imagine he had a very different view of our results.

I left that session and never looked back.  I made the decision to take a different approach to life.  It was a bad approach, but it was new and broke me through barriers that needed to fall.  My anger was the basis for the new slant on living.  There was plenty of opportunity out there in the real world.  It simply needed to be located and capitalized upon.  I decided it was mine to take and use at will.  It’s dog eat dog out here.  If I’m not doing the eating I’m being eaten, so I rushed back out in it and gorged.  I consumed and I devoured and I didn’t care whom I stepped on along the way.  I trampled a few people.  I didn’t look back.  Even I knew that someone would eventually do it to them; someone would have used and discarded them.  Why shouldn’t it be me?  The spoils of those conquests were mine and I deserved them at least as much as the next person did.

I stormed like a bulldozer through the days crushing opposition before me.  I became a user.  I wantonly pursued whatever caught my attention.  I learned that channeling my anger did a fine job of hiding what was truly wrong.  People didn’t have a chance to notice the real me.  They couldn’t get past my behavior to see the unhappy Jason hiding beneath.  They could never really know me.  I wanted the distance.

Brute force pummeled everything in my path and I took at will.  I built my new life from the rubble that remained in my wake and what little didn’t break under my feet.  Shattered hearts and aborted relationships.  Burned bridges and ruined opportunities.  Emotional and professional damage on many levels.  At first, I forced my way through time with no regard to the aftermath.  It only took another few months to realize I hated what I had become and the damage I was doing.  The person wearing my skin was completely alien to me.  The life he built was a complete disaster and worse by any comparison to what had come before.

But by then I had become the man I intended, the remote and alien being who toppled social constructs on whims and shattered lives at every chance.  I shed the real me like so much dead skin, and I did it quickly.  I was finally the beast that inhabited me.  It would take a catalyst greater than Jack to change my ways.  And I would never let such a catalyst near enough to do so.

I liked the new me.  He was safe.  He was guarded.  He lived behind walls that protected him from the pain.  He could be updated a bit here and there, but he was always the strongest and smartest incarnation and deserved a chance to run things for a while.

This was Jack’s legacy.  It would have been unrecognizable to him as such had he survived long enough to see it.  Thought to be failures on so many levels, my sessions with him were during the formative year of my new life and he inadvertently set me afoot on a wildly destructive path that annihilated what was left of me so that I might learn how to put it all back together differently, safely.  I was never mentally ill.  I just didn’t want to hurt again.  Ever.

I don’t know how much I crushed in the wreckage during and immediately following my final spasms.  I feel for the people I hurt and broke.  I feel for the opportunities I lost in the process.  Neither regret outweighs the bank-vault safety of this new being I wear.  I don’t think Jack would have been proud to see that transformation.  I don’t think it was the result he was hoping for.  But it was the result I wanted.