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Saturday, March 27, 2010

More stand-up comedy!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Don't Hassle Me, I'm Local

In the spirit of Random Acts of Kindness Day (which was a couple of weeks ago - evidently it was Procrastinator's Day as well), I bring you this post!

I'm not sure what sort of criteria go into determining at what point you can truly call yourself a 'local', once you have moved to a new location.

Sure, I've lived in the greater Wellington region for just over three years now, so on the surface of it I'm sure that is more than adequate 'time served' in terms of determining where I call home. Certainly, I still haven't affected (and probably never will) a proper Kiwi accent, although I have picked up many of their turns of phrase. As you do.

I'm also bona fide in terms of my residency status here in New Zealand, being a de facto citizen until that can finally be made official in a couple of years.

But these seem to be merely crude, if not acceptable, measures of determining one's status in a place as a True Local. While I am not trying to be pretentious at all about this, as one might be while trying to claim status as a true resident of an exclusive neighbourhood (*cough* Beverly Hills *cough*), I feel a deep connection to Wellington somehow. Since moving here, then, I have gradually felt less and less like a tourist and more and more like a true Wellingtonian.

So what is it that I have found that makes me confident enough to say 'ich bin ein Wellingtonian'?

Why, it's having a flawless record at giving out directions!

What better way to establish yourself as a local and prove your know-how of the area than by pointing lost souls in the right direction? What better way of proving you belong here because you know the cool spots, and not all of them are on the beaten path?

Again, I am not trying to sound egotistical at all about this, although I suspect I am failing in that regard. But please don't mistake my enthusiasm and pride for Wellington as arrogance. It is love! I just love it here, and it's moments like these when it comes shining through.

I give you Incident One: Whilst strolling up Lambton Quay towards the city centre one evening, I was stopped by a man who bore a helpless look on his face.

"Excuse me, where is Cable Car lane?" he asked, in an accent that I am going to guess was... Eastern European. (I'm nothing if not perceptive, no?)

Well, this was an easy one for me, as we were not only 300 yards* away from his destination, but the Cable Car's trademark sign (with the red cable car on it) was within our line of sight.

So I happily pointed him in the right direction and, as soon as he noticed the sign, his eyes lit up and he thanked me.

I continued on my way, chuffed at being able to solve someone's little dilemma and also feeling for the first time like a local. I felt a little self-conscious while I was giving him directions, as whenever I speak it is immediately obvious I am not from around here due to my American accent.

But my successful direction-giving cancels out that one, I think!

Incident Two: Whilst walking up Featherston Street, again late one evening, a harried-looking man accosted me. He asked me, in an accent I am going to guess was Scandinavian (I'm a regular linguistics expert, I tell you), where he could find Hunter Street.

This was pure kismet! For not 24 hours ago, I had been on Google Maps perusing downtown Wellington for a particular address, when I noticed where Hunter Street was in the process.

And before we continue: Yes, I am aware that my admission to looking up directions may - at first glance - appear to weaken my case for being a local. Well, in response, I would say that even locals have to look up directions from time to time! And who can resist the uber-awesomeness that is anything Google? They are the kings of data, man, so get off my case and go use one of their apps, already. They're genius.

Back to our story. Hunter Street is a tricky one, for it is one of those streets that is initially called something else (Featherston, natch) which then takes a 90 degree turn and magically becomes another street - in this case, our Hunter Street! Had I not fortuitously looked at Google Maps the night before, this tourist would have stumped me with his directions request and my ambitions for True Local status would have suffered a serious setback.

But good luck was on my side and since there isn't really much to Hunter Street, and this guy was from out of town, I am guessing his destination was the large hotel located there.

Incident Three: While making my way across the scenic steps by Wellington Town Hall, a man with a distinctly Spanish accent (I am getting better) was looking repeatedly from his copy of Lonely Planet to the street sign at an intersection. His wife/girlfriend seemed to be in a frustrated mood and they had the look of haggard tourists who were having a hard time finding their way.

I cast a glance in their direction and smiled, and he jumped at this chance to ask somebody for directions.

"Excuse me, do you know the way to the iSite?" he said, holding his copy of the Lonely Planet guide as if he would like to tear it in half like that guy did that one time with a phone book.**

Again, this was a fastball down the middle of the plate for me and I, being a power hitter (baseball analogy), took this one out of the park.

We were within spitting distance of his destination, as the iSite is part of the Town Hall building complex. And although it was very close by, this wasn't quite as easy as it sounds as it wasn't within line of sight and also the path to its door was an unmarked, covered sidewalk that curved away out of view. So this explained his confusion as, from any street map, it looks like you should be able to see the iSite from the spot we were standing on - yet you could not.

Anyways, he seemed much relieved at my help and his girlfriend set a rapid pace that he shuffled to catch up with as they took off in the direction of the iSite. I can only think their day improved from there and once again I felt happy to help!

Incident Four: This one is the most recent, and it happened while I was walking back from training with W.I.T. As I traversed Wakefield Street, I came to the intersection with Tory Street and stopped to wait for the little green man to appear and grant me permission to cross. As I stood there, I started to notice out of the corner of my eye that somebody was staring in my direction.

I looked over, and this hulking dude was standing there with his girlfriend (who was SMOKING HOT, by the way). He glanced away when I looked over, then he looked back and asked if I could give him directions somewhere. His accent sounded Russian to me, although as I found out later he and his girl were from the Ukraine. (I was close on that one, at least!)

In this case they didn't have a specific destination in mind, but rather asked for a place to get a good steak.

Aha! So the difficulty level on this request was increased above and beyond that of simple directions to an easy landmark. Now came a true test of my local knowledge!

Once again, fate smiled upon me as not only did I have a good recommendation for him and his lovely partner, we were once again almost within line of sight of the place of interest.

We were just around the corner from the Hog's Breath Café, which I had initially heard about having the best steak in town from a fellow traveler, and then experienced firsthand.

As an aside here, my very first night in Wellington was three years ago when I was on a trip for my job interview. Once that was done I had decided to stay on for a couple of days to see the sights in town before heading back down south to Ashburton, where I lived at the time.

While I was on line at Reading Cinemas at Courtenay (can't remember what movie I saw), I was reading my copy of one of Bill Bryson's books. It was a long line and, as I was by myself, this was a great way to pass the time. (And I was doing two Single Guy Dating Himself things at once, something that will be mentioned at greater length in a future post when the Guide is published).

The guy standing in front of me in line noticed what I was reading and introduced himself. Turns out he was another American and he hailed from Iowa - Bill Bryson's home state! He was familiar with all of Bill's books and he even made a wry joke about having come from Des Moines as well, and said that Bryson is what they were best known for to the rest of the world. (I have to admit, Bryson was the very first thing I ever came to associate with that city!)

Anyways, he said that he came through Wellington frequently on business, though for the life of me I can't remember his name or what line of work he was in. I remember being a little envious of him at the time, for I didn't know the status of my job interview yet (this, of course, had a happy ending!) and, not having spent 24 hours in Wellington yet, I was already in love with this city.

Before we parted ways (his ticket was for a different film), he made it a point to tell me where the best place to find a steak in town was: the Hog's Breath Café - which was right next to the movie theatre, as luck would have it!

And when a Midwesterner gives you advice on where to find a good steak, YOU TAKE IT!

This I then did, although not on that night - and it really is great steak there. So I was confident in the recommendation I gave this bloke from the Ukraine. I lost a few points for having taken them the long way around, but then again maybe the scenic route is a little bit more fun. In chatting with him, he said he and his girlfriend came down to New Zealand frequently from the Ukraine as they loved it here, but they had never yet spent any time in Wellington. Turns out they were right off the plane almost, having just freshened up in their hotel before running into me. When I asked him about what line of work he was in, he became suddenly inscrutable, mumbling something about the shipping business and giving me a sideways glance.

I (wisely) let it go at that and found something else to talk about until we got to the stairwell leading up to the Hog's Breath.

So I wonder if any of these tourists were confused by the smiley local with the American accent who seemed to know his way around Wellington? Did they feel like they had just encountered another tourist who maybe had done his homework a little better than they had? Or perhaps he had better maps? Or a superior travel agent?

Well, it was 'None of the above'! For they had just encountered Brooksie: mild-mannered vet by day, master of directions and timing by night.

Oh good lord, I didn't just type that, did I? Is this to be my lame superpower? Expert directions-giver and steak-recommender?

Well, I call it a case of being in the right place, at the right time. I really enjoy being able to help people, and not just on Random Act of Kindness Day either!

And tomorrow be a fine day as well, me buckos! For then, it'll be International Talk Like A Pirate Day!
* Metres? I dunno...
** True story.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Obligatory Mid-Life Crisis Cliché

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Oh my god! I have to get to a cave RIGHT NOW!"

Please watch the short snippet above from that excellent film, Better Off Dead, and then I'll take it from there.

Why is this quote relevant? Why is Lane's freak-out involving his upcoming race with Stalin the headline of this post?

Because I'm freakin' out man!

No, I'm not racing Stalin tomorrow. I don't even have a pair of skis. And while there are no shortage of caves in New Zealand, I am not so desperate as to be searching for one to hermit myself away in. Yet.

But watch this space. Why? Because tonight, after going out on the town to support some friends doing stand-up comedy (and good shows tonight Woody, Robbie and Nat), I somehow managed to volunteer myself to do a set in an upcoming "Raw Meat Monday". And I hadn't even been drinking!

Oh sure, I've toyed with the idea of trying my hand at a bit of stand-up comedy one day. One day. You know, far off in the future. Preferably via telecast from beyond the grave, so if I bomb I'll be dead and won't really care. But even then...

Seriously! Do you want your first act in the afterlife to be a case of serious flop sweat? I don't know where I'm going after this world, but I'm sure there will be crickets! And they can chirp just as loudly as here!

Ah, what am I saying. Probably everybody who's done stand-up before had felt this way right after agreeing or deciding to try it. It's only natural to feel this anxiety. I admit, there is a bit of a rush in there. Somewhere in there, mixed in with the stark terror.

But the crowds here in Wellington are very supportive and this particular scenario, the Raw Meat Monday format, as off-putting as it sounds is really the perfect time and place for anyone who has ever wanted to try stand-up to finally get off their duff and do it.

Yes, when you've finally completely lost your mind, and decided you'd like to single-handedly entertain a room fool of strangers with your own personal brand of comedy, well then Raw Meat Mondays is the place for you!

No really I am looking forward to this. I was going to get up there and try it once for sure, I just wasn't sure when. So when Derek fixed me with his imploring gaze this evening after the show and kept repeating, "So can I pencil you in for the 31st?", I just couldn't say no. Well, I did say no. Like five times at least. But I finally caved.

Haha, 'cave', get it? No?


Anyways, I'm glad I did! I guess I'm enough of a stage hog that the concept of improvised comedy wasn't enough so I decided to get all greedy and book myself for some stand-up comedy as well. Lots of friends of mine in W.I.T. perform stand-up so I'll be turning to them for advice and asking them to come support me.

But I'll be asking them to leave any and all recording devices at home.

See you on the night of Monday, August 31st Wellington!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All Moggies Great and Small

While I sit here and recover from the swine flu, I finally have no excuse to keep procrastinating regarding my blog. In the three months since I last wrote, I've been busy doing stuff, mainly things with W.I.T. I am happy to say. The most exciting thing there is our second annual New Zealand Improvisation Festival, which this year is taking place in early October. We'll host the Con Artists from Auckland, the Court Jesters from Christchurch, our neighbours The Improvisors from right here in Wellington, and - making this an international affair for the first time - some crew from Impro Melbourne. This will include a workshop run by Patti Stiles, the Artistic Director for Impro Melbourne.

What should coincide with the Festival is the unveiling of our new website, which is currently being overhauled. This is a project being spearheaded by our new Secretary, Jen Mason, and from what she's told us, our new presence on the web sounds like it will be really exciting.

There is also a good chance I'll be performing in my first W.I.T. show either next month or in September, so I'm looking forward to that. We are having two months of Micetro-style shows, an improvised comedy format that is friendly to beginners like me. I'm also working on developing a format of my own, and hope to finish the details soon and take it to Tuesday Training one week and foist it upon my unsuspecting impro comrades!

What I've been wanting to post about lately, though, isn't impro-related. It's more in the vein of a James Herriot-style story - or rather, stories - that have been happening here in Aotearoa these past few months. Periodically I like to try my hand at writing about cats or dogs I've seen in the past and the amazing things that they get up to, just as our dear departed Mr. Herriot once did. However, these four stories all wrote themselves and don't require any sort of re-telling from me.

OK they were written by professional journalists and I can't tell them better than they've already been told, so I'll just point you in the direction of the stories. They all involve cats in New Zealand and these stories actually got on or near the front page of the newspaper on the day they were published. I found it heartening and amusing to read about New Zealanders' pet moggies on the front page instead of the usual doom and gloom that greets me there.

I'll post a link to the story, then offer my own comments after that link (assuming you'll want to folow the link - go on, the stories are quite short!). Please feel free to chime in by commenting on this post, and at the very least I hope these stories make you laugh as much as I did. The last one is kinda creepy, but in a very cool way, and is funny in its own right as well.

1. Owner struggles to solve Rubiks' cruise

This is one of those stories that makes you laugh and also makes you cringe. He's certainly an intrepid little cat, this Rubiks, and he's getting the utmost out of his outdoor existence. Yet you do worry about a cat that likes to wander so much, especially as the traffic in the areas he's chosen to visit can literally be murder for a cat.

But what really floored me is that this cat made it all the way to the Hutt Valley! Between Mt. Cook in Wellington (lower left on the map), where he began his sojourn, to the Hutt Valley (upper right of the map) where he was found is basically all motorway. Check it out:

View Larger Map

There's hardly any room at all for a little cat there, and certainly very off-putting to any would-be travelers who'd dare come this way. Between the high-speed motorway and the waters of the harbour (which splash very close to the road) is a railway, so it's a very daunting prospect indeed. My guess is he made his travels well after midnight, when the trains weren't running and the traffic was next to nil. Cats are nocturnal anyways, so this fits his modus operandi quite well.

Unfortunately, I wasn't called in on the case to question Rubiks, so we may never know the hows and whys of his errant ways. At least, for now, he's back patrolling his home territory, although I'd be a fool if I thought this most recent trip of his was his final one, if not his greatest. It has been over three months since the story broke, so in all likelihood he's wandered off somewhere again!

2. Would-be stowaway saved by a whisker

This story about Dr. Chicken the cat (can Kiwis come up with great cat names or what!) is another heartwarming one. This kitty definitely dodged a bullet, and while I've heard of animals surviving very long periods of time without food and water, I'm not so sure Dr. Chicken would have survived 8 days in a shipping container. Unless, like Tom Hanks' blind luck in the movie Castaway, Dr. Chicken happened to be fortuitously stowed away in a shipping container filled with cat food, a leaky water bottle, and a volleyball (everybody needs a Wilson), she was going to probably have spent all 9 of her lives right there.

But I really like how the shipping container company was sincerely and immediately helpful, especially given how daunting the task was of finding which container was the right one!

3. Sinbad: a mog with catitude

This one made me laugh the most. I know the poor fella has had more than his fair share of travesty (watch the interview if you want to hear more on this), but it's just the descriptions of his antics that got me laughing. Picturing this fat, tailless cat 'scrabbling' around in the toilet bowl he'd just splashed into is a mirthful image I can't let go of. Or Sinbad having 'burnt lips' after sucking (!) on the end of a weedkiller bottle. I thought only dogs did that kind of thing! Also, in typical understated Kiwi fashion, his owner describing him as being 'a bit wobbly' made me laugh as well.

What got me most, however, was how he managed to topple his letterbox from perching his huge arse upon it every day. How sad that he can't do his daily greeting ritual anymore, though! After all he's been through, he's a real Lazarus all right, and I just hope Sinbad keeps ticking along for many more years yet.

4. Ghost cat couple cop flak

I always enjoy a good ghost story, but particularly so when it involves the ghost of a cat! Definitely watch the attached video with this story, it's really pretty spooky. It's funny how this little 'ghost' is sort of behaving like a cat, isn't it? Sure it's moving a bit fast, but then again he's a ghost now, so he's got supernatural speed. I like how there is no reflection in the puddle, then right on cue here comes a real flesh and blood orange cat later on, who walks by the same puddle and casts a reflection. A nice bit of 'proof' in the same few moments of video footage, if you will, that the initial orange blur is something not-of-this-world.

Hopefully there will be a follow-up story, not only after the experts have reviewed the tape to say that it's not been doctored, but also perhaps they will catch this little blighter on video again! Who knows? Maybe in the next one, he'll be trotting after that lazy orange cat that appears in this video, trying to get him to play.

Well, that's all for this installment of "News For Cats". Trust me, if any dogs had made it into the news (or horses, wombats, etc.) I'd have mentioned them as well. This is, after all, an equal opportunity blog when it comes to our animal friends!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We will remember them.

Today in New Zealand it is ANZAC Day, a national holiday. It is a day of remembrance for all those who have fought for the country, those who serve to protect it now and most especially those who went to fight for New Zealand and never returned.

Although I have been here for two previous ANZAC Days, today was the first day I went to a dawn service. These happen all across the country, rain or shine. I turned up a little late (6:00 AM, the ceremony had begun at 5:45) but as the parade had gathered outside the Upper Hutt City Council building it was easy to filter into the crowd assembled on the street.

As it was still pre-dawn, the skies were dark but the street was well-lit and I could see that at least hundreds of people were present, if not a thousand or more. There were some lovely speeches from a local priest, the president of the RSA (Returned and Services' Association) and the chief of staff of Joint Forces New Zealand.

There was then a laying of wreaths accompanied by a somber number played on the bagpipes, followed by one minute's silence. Then came Reveille, which is listed in the program as "The sounding of Reveille proclaims our belief that the landing at ANZAC heralded the dawn of a brilliant era in the march to Nationhood of Australia and New Zealand."

This references the Gallipoli campaign during World War I when the ANZAC company was directed to the wrong part of the shore to stage an assault that was designed to force the Turks to surrender. It was an ill-fated campaign and I refer you again to this page for a far better synopsis of its significance than I can provide.

The parade then closed with a singing of the New Zealand national anthem and by now the sun had started to rise and cast its light over the cold Hutt Valley. Having never been to a dawn service before, I wasn't sure what to wear so I figured it'd be better to be over-dressed rather than under-dressed. My coat and tie proved to be a bit too formal as most people were dressed nicely but not to such a degree, so next year I will be a bit more relaxed in that department.

In a way, I did come under-dressed after all, as the poppy I had received for making a donation to the RSA yesterday was still pinned to my smock at work. Most everyone around me had their poppies on display, but that being said I wasn't made to feel embarassed in the slightest. The New Zealanders present were, as ever, polite, introspective and friendly. I'm sure none of them noticed I wasn't wearing a poppy anyways - it just wouldn't bother them!

I know I wasn't the only American in New Zealand turning out for ANZAC Day, either, as there were some U. S. Marines from the embassy's guard detachment handing out poppies at the railway station downtown. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also issued a statement of commemoration for ANZAC Day from Washington, DC.

I'd love to get to the dawn service next year at the War Memorial in downtown Wellington, which I have visited in the past, but not on ANZAC Day.

The last Monday in May is, of course, Memorial Day back in the States. It looks like, from past news items on its site, that there will be a service for this at the U. S. Embassy or somewhere nearby in Wellington. I'll be sure to get to this if I can this year, too, work schedule permitting.

As for the rest of my day, I'll be repairing to Westpac Stadium later this evening with a friend to cheer on the Wellington Hurricanes in their match against the Brumbies from Canberra, Australia. I look forward to it, as always, but it will be a little more special today given the intertwined history of these two great countries that has been illustrated today.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Somebody stop that cat!

So there I was, sitting on a bench by the side of the road, waiting for the mechanics' shop to open. The car was due in for its Warrant of Fitness, and as I was a bit early for dropping off the cah at the yahd, I had no choice but to take a seat outside.

It was a fine morning out, so I didn't mind one bit. Where I work is quite literally right around the corner from the mechanics' place. Sunlight beamed down all around me, bathing me in warm morning light. A few cars passed by, filled with people on their way to the workplace. Birds were chirping and flitting about. A small grey and white cat darted out into the street. A few people made their way --

Hold the phone: what was that?! I held my breath for a moment, frozen by the sight of this cat running carelessly into the road as a car began to approach from around the corner. The little fella didn't seem to have his street smarts yet, as not only did he time his jaunt across the open road poorly, but right as he reached the middle he allowed himself to be momentarily distracted by a bird flying the other way across the street.

He tracked it flawlessly with his gaze as he ran the other way, blindly into the lane where there was an oncoming car. I was about to leap to my feet to warn the driver, but they must've already seen this little air-headed kitty as they had already begun to slow down.

As the cat disappeared behind a wooden partition, now safely on the other side of the road, I felt a wave of relief pass over me. I also realized why perhaps he was so determined to cross the road: I think on the other side of the partition lies a series of dumpsters, used by the large shopping mall there. He had probably penciled in a little dumpster diving to get his morning going right.

So imagine my surprise when, later on that same day, I am in an exam room and I go to open the cardboard carrier that contained these young owners' newest cat - and out jumped my little jaywalking friend! Yes, it was the same little grey and white cat I had seen just a few hours previous as he made his way towards the seedy Dumpster District.

I laughed and told the owners the story of how I had just seen him that morning, right around the corner. The couple seemed surprised he had wandered so far, but they had also just moved into a new flat so perhaps he was still figuring out the boundaries of his home turf. I pointed out that dumpsters were hard for cats to resist, and as this little guy had yet to be neutered, perhaps he'd settle down once that had been, ahem, arranged.

Remembering this young couple from a few months back, I asked about their other cat and how he and the new guy (named "Casper", as I came to find out) were getting along. Sadly, their last cat had been hit by a car - something that very possibly could've happened to Casper that very morning!

But, he was scheduled for the chop soon, so hopefully he'd learn to be more careful and we wouldn't have any more sad stories for these owners.

Fast forward to a few days later, and after work I hit the supermarket to load up on groceries. As I often do, on the way home I decided to stop in at the BP for petrol. As I pull up next to the nearest open pump, I see Casper's male owner standing there. He works at BP, you see, so I often see him whenever I get petrol.

As I got out of the car, I struggled to remember the little grey and white cat's name, but was keen to ask this guy how things were going nonetheless.

"My cat ran away!"

"WHAT??" I said, exasperated.

"Yeah, that night, after we saw you. We let him outside after his dinner and we haven't seen him since."

"Oh no. I am sorry to hear that," I said, remembering how he had just lost his previous cat not a few months ago, and now it was maybe happening again. I also felt absurdly guilty that the cat decided to do a runner the very night after I stuck him with a needle. Perhaps, with some sort of crooked feline logic, he had decided that humans who took him to other humans to be stabbed with needles were not to be trusted.

I asked him if he had seen any sign of him at all, or if they had put up signs. He said they had put up posters and ads in all shelters and vet clinics, but he had not yet put an ad on Pets on the Net, which I strongly suggested he do. He also theorized that the cat had probably been picked up and kept by another owner, something he said happens a lot in Upper Hutt. I found this moderately disturbing and said as much.

Well after talking to Casper's owner, I began to feel rather helpless about his situation. As I got back into my car, though, inspiration struck. I decided to drive around, looking for Casper, the melting ice cream from the supermarket be damned.

After all, I had pretty good intelligence as to just where this little blighter might have run off to. The very spot where I had seen Casper run across the road a few days earlier was just a few hundred metres from this BP station. So I turned onto that street, slowed down and began to scan both sides of the street intently.

The white wooden partition behind which the dumpsters lay came and went with no sight of Casper. I kept creeping along the road, looking everywhere, but didn't see any grey and white flashes anywhere.

I did notice, however, that a guy who had been walking up the sidewalk towards me the entire time was looking at me oddly. He was a pretty big guy, wearing a black singlet and also a Yankees cap (something I'm not used to seeing round these parts). He probably wondered what in the world I was doing, driving so slowly and looking about in a crazy manner.

But then I saw Casper! There he was, just off to the left of the shopping mall carpark. I had little time to act so, forgetting about the suspicious pedestrian, I flicked on the hazards, pulled over to the kerb and hopped out.

The guy in the Yankee hat was definitely aloof now and I'm sure he saw that my car was filled with grocery bags. I didn't improve his opinions of my motives, I am sure, when I then knelt down on the sidewalk and began to make chattering noises and calling to Casper in that weird, high-pitched voice you reserve for use when trying to entice pets to approach you. You see the thing is, the guy never saw the cat, nor could he have seen him now as I called to it because it was hidden from view around the corner of the carpark!

Well the guy kept walking on but Casper was frozen in place. He regarded me warily with conflicted emotions. Here was this stranger, talking nicely to him and wanting to pat him, yet this human was suddenly not so strange after all... He looked oddly familiar...

Oh no! It's the guy who jabbed you with that needle the other day! RUN FOR IT!

And so he ran, the moment I encroached upon Casper's 'flight zone'. He took off a good thirty metres down the sidewalk before stopping to turn and look at me again.

Not wanting to completely throw in the towel on this attempted rescue - how cool would it have been to rock in to the BP, not five minutes after I had left, and be able to tell Casper's owner I had not only found his cat but that he was waiting in my car!

Remembering my groceries, I had luckily that night decided to splurge and buy the cats some treats so I ran back to the car and fished them out. I could always buy more, and anyways my cats could certainly stand to miss a meal or two.*

Shaking the bag and strolling confidently back towards Casper, I knew there was no way any cat could resist the sound of treats rattling around!

Well, this cat could. Casper wasn't having a bar of it. I'm not sure if it was a sign of him finally getting some street smarts (Don't take candy from strangers!) or his emerging memory that, in addition to jabbing him, I had also shoved a worm tablet down his throat.

He kept his distance, so I decided to pour out a big pile of Cravers right there on the sidewalk. I figured if I couldn't win the battle, I'd try and win a war of attrition. Give him some treats today, I reasoned, and maybe when I returned the next day with some more treats, he'd be more trusting and then I could snatch him up.

As I negotiated the roundabout to return to the BP station and let the guy know his cat was alive and well, I noticed that Casper was gorging heartily on the treats.

I also noticed, as I crossed over the speed bumps leading back to the BP (Driving slowly again! And still with lots of groceries in the back seat!) that I was now passing the very same guy in the Yankees hat on the sidewalk again.

I did my best to stare straight ahead but out of the corner of my eye I noticed him turn his head towards me sharply as I drove past. He must have been thinking, "What the hell...?"

Well I let Casper's owner know about his status and he did seem a bit relieved to hear he was doing OK. He thought it was a bit cheeky Casper kept hanging around the same place I had seen him, and truth be told it was only a couple of streets away from where the guy now lived. So I told him this was likely becoming part of Casper's home turf, even though it wasn't very comforting as it is a very trafficky area.

A couple of weeks later at work, I was heartened to see that Casper's name was on the surgery list for that morning. He was due to be neutered and have his final vaccine booster, so I knew he must have come home at last. Turns out the guy didn't have to go out and round him up from the dumpster area, Casper just came home on his own a day or so after I had seen him.

I was the one who ended up performing Casper's surgery, and if he had any hard feelings about his last experience with me, he didn't seem to let on. In fact, he seemed non-plussed in general, so he probably forgot the pile of Cravers I fed him, too, the little ingrate!

Nah, I could never be mad at Casper. After all, it's not hard to imagine why cats do love to dumpster dive so - especially when said dumpsters are used daily by the likes of Subway and KFC. Being an American, I am no stranger to the appeal of greasy take-away food! Just not the 'in-a-dumpster' kind of take-aways.

Well, except for that one night in college, when we were all really bored. And drunk. And hungry. And we lived right next door to a Dunkin' Donuts...

I better quit now, lest this posting degenerate into something disgusting! Yeah, it's probably too late for that, but I am glad that Casper's life on the streets hasn't lead to him being just another statistic.

Stay cool, kitty.
* Having fat pets is something we vets are loath to admit, but I tell you here freely, in the interests of full disclosure.