Just a little moose Christmas tree ornament.
From Ten Thousand Villages.
I have a posse of three who haven’t had much blog time to date.
Zoë has been with us the longest. Jean saw her at a pet store—not one of those stores that sells kittens and puppies, one of those that displays rescue cats up for adoption—and couldn’t resist. He called me.
“I’m at Pet Value, want to adopt this cat,” he said.
“So she’s black calico?” I answered.
Jean, confused: “So you’ve seen her too?”
No Jean, I hadn’t seen her too. I just knew that Jean had been missing our black calico, Bob, who’d passed away some months before.
Zoë indeed resembled Bob very much; in older pictures, it’s hard to tell which cat is which. And she shares Bob’s graceful elegance of movement.
But she’s her own cat. Her big round eyes give her an air of constant inquisitiveness; when awake, she always seems to be fascinated by something. The background she was rescued from was a house overcrowded with cats; she’s never really lost her interest in sneaking around, scrounging around for food, though now it’s just for fun and not survival. And if she does get mouth on something good, she stills goes to hide in the corner to eat it, though the other cats have no interest in trying to steal it from her—they don’t even like “people” food.
She’s the shyest of the bunch and is not exactly a lap cat. But she enjoys being pet in particular places: up on window sills, in the bathroom (as long as she’s the only cat in there), and on us, as long we have a blanket barrier. She also has a daily ritual of joining us for meals at breakfast, on her own stool, content to hang with us whether or not she gets any treats.
McSteamy was picked out of a “catalog” of rescue cats. We were “shopping” because Romey, a stray who’d adopted us years before (and remains our sweetest cat ever) had passed, leaving us with just Zoë. McSteamy was gorgeous, a blue-eyed tabby-Siamese cross.
Unfortunately, he was also terrified of us.
It was nothing personal. His foster owner said he’d also been scared of her at first, but had gotten over it, and now she adored him. I was skeptical, but Jean was taken in, so we brought him home and put him in a room for an adaptation period, during which he scrambled under furniture every time we entered. But, once safely “hidden” away he did let us pet him, and would eventually sneak out a bit more.
One day, not long after he’d been allowed out of the one room, some commotion gave him a big fright. He ran up three flights of stairs, jumped on a bed, then crashed through a screened, second-floor window. He through the back yard, beyond the fence, and out to hide with the gophers in the wooded berm.
The cat rescue organization was very helpful in dealing with this crisis. They lent us a trap, told us to put as close to the window he’d escaped from as possible, and to wait. Again I was skeptical, but darned if McSteamy didn’t make his way into that trap around 2:00 in the morning.
Once back in the house and release, McSteamy decided we were the best people ever. And he has never really stopped thinking that. His fear of us was gone for good.
Frankly, I shudder to think what kind of experience he’d had before ending up at the shelter where the cat rescue organization got him, because now this is one of the friendliest, most relaxed cats I’ve ever encountered.
McSteamy’s stressful life
He’s the first to visit “strangers” to the house. If there’s a commotion, he’ll amble over to see what it’s about. He not only accepts attention now; he demands it. With insistent meowing, when necessary (whereas he was a basically silent cat at first).
And yes, he was named after the character in Grey’s Anat0my, a show we watched at the time. Most people find the name a hoot…
Mocha was adopted at the same time as McSteamy, but by the same method as Zoë: She was the featured rescue cat at Pet Value. In the store, she seemed the friendliest, most cuddly cat ever. Once we got her home, she proceeded to hide from us behind and underneath furniture, for months. Devious!
Through their time of joint fear in the “adaptation room”, McSteamy and Mocha formed a bond that persists to this day. They often cuddle and sleep together, which always looks adorable and bit funny, because Mocha is an unusually tiny cat, and McSteamy is… not.
At any rate, Mocha did eventually warm to us as well—especially Jean, whom she loves to climb up and all over when he’s at the computer. “Too intense, Mocha!” is a common refrain. And she’s decided I’m OK, too. Especially that I’m not off on canoe or business trips as often as Jean; Mocha has to get her petting somewhere.
Though much calmer than on first adoption, she remains a bit nervous and jumpy, especially when it comes to eating. Her backstory: likely a pet that got out when she went into a heat. She and her kittens were rescued from someone’s backyard. (She and all our cats are now neutered, of course.) But the “rescue” likely involved getting trapped in a box when she snuck out to eat, and she apparently fears that might happen again.
In honour of Canada Day, I just installed the Canadian English Dictionary extension for Firefox, so now WordPress doesn’t mark “honour” with a “u” as a typo. Yay!
I also spent some time (badly) photographing possibly the most Canadian item I own: A red and white quilt signed by various Canadian celebrities. My mother won it in a museum fundraiser back in 1997, and I recently inherited it.
Since 1997, some of the signatures have faded, and some of the “celebrities” have become obscure. But a number remain fun to look over.
So Pamela Anderson was still married to Tommy Lee in ’97. And an interesting juxtaposition beside Jann Arden’s drawing (yes, that angel is naked. As angels are.).
Speaking of Pamelas and juxtapositions, Pamela Wallin was then just a TV journalist, not a disgraced Conservative Senator. The modest signature below hers is that of the Prime Minister of the day, Liberal Jean Chrétien.
Stompin’ Tom was still was us in 1997, and Shania Twain is still with us today. Not sure what’s up with Michelle Wright these days…
A few more items in Canada’s tapestry:
Some fine local food.
Our annual “weekend in Toronto in winter because Jean has a conference” wasn’t terribly eventful—we drove back before da big storm really hit—but it did provide some photographic opportunities.
We visited the very crowded, kind of expensive, but still pretty neat Ripley’s Aquarium.
We had some trouble getting dinner reservations Saturday due to (I assume) Winterlicious being on. But we managed to get in at Frank, at the AGO. Jean had their Winterlicious items while I ordered from the main menu.
I had a roasted squash salad. For mains, we each had a tuna entree, but prepared different ways—both good.
For wine, we had a bottle of a Spanish white, an albarino, that was on special. Quite nice, and appeared to be low in alcohol.
For dessert, Jean’s had rum raisin crème brulée. Yum.
For January, the weather wasn’t too bad. It was partly sunny on Saturday, and not that cold, especially when not in the wind. So we did do some walking around, and Jean took some photos.
Sunday we had some delicious dim sum (no photos), then visited the Douglas Coupland exhibit at the ROM. It was more to my taste than Jean’s. Therefore, you must now prepare for a precipitous decline in photo quality, because the following ones are mine.
If you look at the next image through the camera of your cell phone, they’ll look quite different than they do with the naked eye. It’s really weird. (And if you actually take the cell phone picture, you lose the effect.)
The exhibit was very pop art-like. One set of paintings was of QR codes that bring up phrases like “Sworn to fun, loyal to none” and “I wait and I wait and I wait for God to appear”, that you can then text to your friends to confuse them. Another was a large installation of found objects, arranged to represent the four quadrants of the brain, and the cerebellum.
The following photos might help you judge how interested you might find all this. How many of these coloured squares do you want to read?
I read them all.
While we did take some time to stop and eat, meet with friends, read, and relax while in Seattle, this post will focus on the activities we managed to pack in.
The initial weather forecast for Seattle wasn’t that great, but after we got there (in the rain), made it to our hotel, had a snack, and were ready to head to explore, it had become very nice and sunny. Our hotel was right by the famous Space Needle, so we decided to take the opportunity to go up that right away, while the weather was cooperative.
While at, we also bought a City Pass, which gave us access to four other sights along with Needle, saving you about half the cost in entry fees, if you visit them all.
You do get some nice views of Seattle from the Space Needle:
But overall, the experience is a bit underwhelming. They have some interactive displays of other Seattle sites up there, so we virtually checked out the Pike Street Market area, but overall there isn’t that much to do. I think the CN Tower and Empire State Building were somehow more impressive.
Though it must be said that the Space Needle involves much less rigmarole getting up there (at least in October)!
We had some time before dinner, so we also walked far enough to get an actual view of the Pike Street Market, and some of the waterfront. Seattle looked very pretty:
Thursday was supposed to be cloudy, but Thursday didn’t get the memo, apparently, and instead was beautiful and sunny all day. So we focused on outdoor activities.
We started at the Olympic Sculpture Park. It wasn’t quite what we had pictured in our minds, which more of a traditional park, only with city art installed in it. It had more concrete barriers and paths than we were expecting, and wasn’t that large.
But it did contain some rather interesting art:
And a very cool fountain:
Our City Pass included a one-hour Seattle Harbor cruise, so we walked to the waterfront next to get tickets for that. We had lunch in the Pike Street market area, and on the way to the restaurant we happened by the famous bubblegum wall (where that walls are full of designs in gum). It’s both interesting and gross.
The cruise was quite informative. We got a bit of a history of the pier and of some of the buildings viewed from shore, like the hotel where people could fish outside their window, and the office building that met the city height limits without losing any floors, by giving all tenants low ceilings. And we learned about some of the tourist sites, like Space Needle, built for a World’s Fair, and the ferris wheel, a more recent addition.
We got a closeup view of the boat loading operations, whose cranes look a bit mysterious from the shore:
We also got an excellent view of Mount Rainier—unlike when we were actually there!We also saw some sea lions. And the tour guide talked about the Seattle weather, noting that the annual amount of rain there is less than many other American cities—such as Honolulu! But it’s just that those cities tend to get heavy rainfalls during a short season, whereas Seattle has a very long season of light rain.
Once off the boat, we walked to the Pioneer District, which is the oldest part of Seattle. We noticed that it was more run down than the other parts of the city we’d been in, with more homeless and litter. It was fine during the day, but I wouldn’t want to be there at night!
While there, however, we did take the Underground Tour, which was fascinating! (Though low on pictures.) It was funny, because on the way there, I was asking Jean, “Which city was it that they raised the whole level of by adding dirt, or something?” And he looked at me like I had two heads, as he had never heard of such a thing.
Well, Seattle is that city! It’s still a pretty hilly place, but back in the day, it was even more hilly, and the lowlands had problems with flooding and issues with a lot of stuff—like raw sewage—flowing down and pooling where people were trying to live. So when the whole of downtown Seattle burnt down, they decided to tackle this problem by moving some earth down off the top of the hills, making those less steep, and raising the lowlands, actually pushing the water line back.
Sounds a bit crazy, but was actually a good idea that worked well. Only problem is that to complete the whole project was to take a good 10 years. And Seattle businessmen did not feel they could wait that long to rebuild.
So they didn’t. They rebuilt immediately, but with the intent that their second floor would eventually be the main floor, and that the first floor would be underground.
On the Underground tour, apart from learning about all this (and more), you tour the old sidewalks and lower levels of buildings, still located underneath the modern sidewalks and main doorways above.
It’s a very interesting tour, all day presented with a lot of humor—highly recommended if you ever visit Seattle.
This had made for a lot of walking in a day, so on the way back we took the light rail, then the monorail—an almost absurdly short ride, but it’s cool. (We later learned it was built for the World Fair, and just never expanded from that.) And on the way back to our hotel, we found a new path through Space Needle Park, featuring another neat fountain:
Friday offered up some of that famous Seattle light rain we’d been hearing about, so we decided it would be museum day.
We started at the Pacific Science Centre (City Pass!), whose special exhibit was the science behind Ripley’s Believe or Not. We were surprised to see a Government of Ontario logo on the way in; turns out the exhibit was developed at Science North in Sudbury! It was a good exhibit—fun and interesting.
And we visited the butterfly room.
Our City Pass had included an Imax movie, so we saw Sharks 3D! It was very well done, really, presenting the efforts to better understand great white sharks and encourage their protection.
The next stop was the Chihuly Museum (where we also had lunch). He does incredibly beautiful work in glass. Some of it was featured in indoor galleries, other pieces outside in a garden.
Our final museum du jour was the Seattle Aquarium. (This is a true research aquarium—no dolphins doing tricks here.) While not the most impressive aquarium we’ve ever visited—it was a bit small—we did enjoy seeing the tropical fish, their good collection of sea birds, and the various types of otters. You’ve got to love otters! It was also interesting to learn that animals here aren’t necessarily stuck for life; where possible, they get released and replaced with new ones (who are later released, too).
Rainy Saturday morning, we polished off our City Pass with a visit to the EMP (experimental music projects) museum. As predicted in advance, I found it much more interesting than Jean, so we have very few photos!
It had special exhibits on:
Unlike Jean, I found something of interest in each exhibit, though the music video one was probably my favorite, Interesting to see some of the more recent innovations in that art form (interactive, 3D, remixing, fan versions)—along with the more familiar history—as I really don’t keep up with music videos anymore! I also spent a bit of time in the room where you experiment with the keyboards (and many other instruments), learning how to play along with famous songs and such. Fun, though I didn’t much time.
The afternoon cleared up, so we visited the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It’s characterized by a lot of interesting shops—bookstore / cafe that specializes in technical and science books (from science fiction to heavy computer programming); music stores highlighting all types of music, not just the most popular—that sort of thing. There’s also a Jimi Hendrix statue there, and Broadway St, features some dance steps on the side walk.
(But I don’t have pictures to prove any of that…)
I think we got a lot in, including a lot of walking! Despite all that, we missed a few items on the list:
I guess there’s always next time…
The nature of our week-long Ontario getaway—combined with some unseasonable August weather—meant that the number of photos Jean took was much lower than usual. Good thing we went to Science North in Sudbury, or it would otherwise have been close to a count of zero.
We weren’t the only ones with that thought, though; Science North was crazy full of parents and their kids!
We probably spent the most time on the floor focusing on wildlife. We were there late afternoon, which happened to be feeding time for a lot of the critters.
And to conclude, the now almost obligatory photo of me in front of food, at Churchill’s restaurant in North Bay (another day, on the way back).
Good thing people sometimes visit. Otherwise you might never your home town’s tourist attractions.
So it was that, after 22 years in the region, we finally visited African Lion Safari. Turns out it’s more than just an annoying theme song. The idea of this “zoo” is that the animals roam free, while people are kept in metal cages (also known as cars). The preserve has had good success in its breeding program for a number of endangered species.
They really do have majestic lions.
But the most exciting big cat encounter was with the
leopard cheetah, who decided to walk over to our car.
And hang out right beside it.
The ostriches, who look like living dinosaurs, pecked at the car window, hoping for food.
The baboons often climb on the cars, but ours didn’t prove attractive to them.
We discovered that giraffes aren’t overly fond of rain (that it was raining for a change was amazing in itself), as they all huddled together under a shelter.
Rhinos are really big. Fortunately, none of them did any car-charging, that we saw.
Some other continents were also features, such as kangaroos of Australia.
And even deer of North America.
It was fun. Definitely worth a visit, if you’ve never been.