29 March, 2006

is your cat anxious?



Camille Claudel, 1864-1943


















First of all, before I satisfy what is undoubtedly burning curiosity at the subject of this post, I must say this about The Dinner Party. You remember, the one at John's boss's house. I cannot post about it yet. I am allowed to write a draft, and then some Reuters official will read it for signs of insubordination, replace half of it with gibberish like they used to do to too-revealing letters during World War II. I am only partly kidding. John is hot to read what I write before I post it because so many sensitive people are involved! It was quite the star-studded guest list. Oops, was I allowed to say that? Seriously, I'll do my best, but probably not until after Avery and I get back from Scotland. We leave tomorrow night and get back Monday afternoon.

So about the cat. I've been sort of congratulating myself in a minor way on the unscathed condition in which we have all survived our move. John's settled in perfectly at work, Avery is blissfully happy at school, I have bookshelves and friends and a boiler and so I'm happy. What did I forget? Oh, yes, our feline friends. When they first arrived from the kennel and the airport, all of them were coughing and sneezing. You know how everyone tells you not to try to diagnose a physical ailment by looking it up on the internet? Try googling "cat sneeze" and you'll see the many dire things from which your cat can die, or be treated in an extremely invasive and expensive fashion. Also there was someone who actually recorded his cat sneezing and set it to an Eminem song. I am not making that up. Anyway, after reading all this scary stuff, I took the only practical step I could: I decided to ignore it. And guess what? They stopped doing it. Eventually. So I returned all four cats from whence they came, namely The Back Burner, and went on taking care of all the pressing affairs of business that could not be ignored. Until one day I looked down and Wimsey, Lord Peter to you, had removed fully half the white fur from his belly. Completely pink. And his ankles! And his hands! Something told me this was odd, but I ignored it until he did the unmentionable in my handbag. This, I felt, was a direct slap at me. I mean, my handbag. Eeew.

So today I took the proverbial bull by the horns, packed him up in a cat carrier, and took him the the Hyde Park Veterinary Clinic in Connaught Street, a too-long (as it turned out) walk from Dunraven Street, but we got there. Dr. Andrew looked him over and asked me a million questions, while Wimsey prowled around the exam room breathing loudly from his open mouth. "That cat is anxious," said the doctor. "Your cat is suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disease [or Syndrome? Disorder? I forget]. Look, he is far too agitated even now." I looked. He did look anxious, pacing around and frowning. Finally he lay down in exhaustion on the floor and folded his paws. "Now he is beginning to relax," said the doctor. "How long has he been like this?" "I don't know!" I wailed defensively. "Until today I have to tell you that in the triage-ing of my issues, he's been at the bottom of the pile!" At this, Wimsey lumbered up off the floor and started pacing again. "That's really impressive," said Dr. Andrew. "He's listening to every word you say. He senses that he has not been a priority," he concluded dryly. So one blood test and a predictably ruinous bill later, I was in proud possession of two electrical-socket plugs filled with a substance called "Feliway," some pheremone that when breathed in, convinces cats they are safe and happy. "I'm waiting for the human version," the doctor said. But honestly, apparently there is an opposite of the pheremone that cats secrete when they sense danger, and if they smell it, they get all calm and happy. Right now he's secreting an overload of the "somebody promise I never have to fly British Airways again" hormone.

Whilst I was paying, Wimsey sitting on the floor panting in his carrier, in came two extremely voluble Westies who proceeded to charge his carrier and bark with ferocity. The poor cat came completely unglued. I whisked him away in a cab and here we are, with invisible and slightly creepy-making pheremones allegedly wafting through the air. I keep peeking to see if he looks different. I do swear, he goes near the thing and his head bobs up and down. We can only hope.

This morning, as an example of my extremely varied life that combines Feliway with art history, I had a really fruitful and enjoyable meeting with a painter called Melanie Essex and one of her collectors, Sarah Treco, who along with my new friend Susan are helping to organize a lot of events honoring women artists in 2007. The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., is involved, and of course it turns that half the people working on the project were either in graduate school with me or had something to do with the publication of my book, or something. Melanie Essex is actually quite close friends with one of my most treasured artists, Amanda Guest, whose solo show at my gallery was such a success. Another SW (Small World) encounter.

So I've been deputized to, among other things, give a lecture at the Royal Academy of Art on Camille Claudel, next fall! Isn't her picture lovely, up above in this post? I'm actually quite excited. I missed my usual October lecture on the topic at Christie's, for reasons related to the auction house's questionable handling of a knotty intern problem I had at the gallery (is that discreet enough? many of you know the scary particulars). I would really enjoying working on Claudel again, and the Rodin exhibit for which the lecture would be a special event sounds like a winner. So I'm back in the saddle, to some extent, in the art history world. Sarah is also a member of a fiction-writing course that sounds very exciting. We discussed (in general, non-identifying terms, of course!) the dilemma of writing about, dare I say it, real people. How to disguise them, if to disguise them, do you ask their permission, do you bend the truth to make a better story, etc. Melanie said that one of her college roommates had written her into a novel, in less than glowing terms, or rather engaged in one of her less-than-shining moments as an undergraduate at Harvard. She admitted that it changed their friendship. And Susan pointed me to two books written by siblings, Susan and George Minot, whose differing (and thinly disguised) accounts of their troubled childhood have caused huge ruptures in their family. I have been getting some concerned comments from readers of this blog who would rather not see me sued for defamation of character, or my knees broken by the less controlled people I've insulted. I truly hope I have not insulted anyone! It's tricky. Life is so interesting just as it happens, and people so fascinating without resorting to fictionalizing, that I'm hard-pressed to edit out a lot, or gloss over, or make nice. A dilemma that apparently a lot of writers face. The important thing is that I would never include anyone in the blog who I was not fond enough to be spending time with, but I can still see people being sensitive. An ongoing thing to be aware of. If I knew any other bloggers, I would see what they say, but I'm so busy writing this one that I don't have time to read any!

In preparation for our Scottish odyssey tomorrow evening, I bought a Barbour waxed-cotton coat for Avery, and tried to get Wellies but everyone is out of her size. Surely a shop in Edinburgh will have one? She claims to have packed everything she needs, and I hate to second-guess her, but I think I'll go through the bag to make sure she included uncompelling items like underwear, in among the doubtless hundreds of books. I myself am taking along Rosamund Pilcher's "September," a truly lovely and relaxing novel set in northern Scotland, and several in M.C. Beaton's hilarious detective series about Hamish Macbeth, like "Death of a Cad." I imagine we'll find books in Scotland that we can't find here, and that will be part of the fun. Plus I want a really top-notch Highland Scotch, something that doesn't grace the shelves of Selfridges liquor section. I came up with the perfect dish: spicy Grand Duke's Chicken with Peanuts and Red Peppers. You basically cut the chicken and peppers into the size pieces you like, and get an equal quantity of raw peanuts (any raw nut you like will do). Then, one by one saute those three ingredients separately in peanut oil with garlic and ginger, then make a sauce of soy sauce, an egg, Japanese mirin cooking wine, chopped scallions, and sesame oil (with a little flour whisked in if you like it thicker. Then you throw everything back in the wok and pour over the sauce, and cook as hot as you can for five minutes. On brown rice it's delicious. Makes takeaway Chinese (except for my beloved Hong Kong in Indianapolis) something you never want to have again.

OK, I'm off to try not to get lost collecting Avery from her playdate with Stephanie, in St. John's Wood. I've looked at the map a hundred times. This morning when we left for school, I ran back for my A to Z to get to breakfast without mishap. "Come on, Mummy, we're going to be late! Leave the map!" I was indignant. "Sure, when after a few days people realize they haven't seen me, you'll have to admit that you were willing to lose your mother forever, in order to get to school on time." She didn't deny it.

1 comment:

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