Archive for the 'Friends and Family' Category

CHIQUITO Y SUS ANECDOTAS

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Chiqui Feldman 1996-2012

CHIQUITO Y SUS ANECDOTAS

by Guest Blogger Norma Yvonne Moreira de Feldman

Nuestro amado y querido Chiquito Feldman Moreira falleció rodeado del cariño y atención de su padre, mientras su madre estaba en Nueva YorK visitando a sus tios y hermano. En edad humana Chiquito vivió más de 70 años. Fue un gato consentido, mimado, amado, cuidado y considerado como un miembro más de la familia, tal es asi que en su medalla de identificación y en su tarjeta médica consta con el apellido Feldman.

Chiquito o Chiqui –como cariñosamente lo llamábamos- llegó a nuestro hogar en el otoño del año 1996. Recién habíamos llegado de Ecuador y Michael se había reintegrado a su trabajo, después de dos años de ausencia. Un dia estando en su oficina escuchó el maullar de un gato y preguntó si era que había uno cerca, y asi era. Una de sus colegas que había estado en la autopista lo vio cuando el gatito trataba de cruzarla, ella actuó con ligereza, disminuyó la marcha de su auto, frenó un poco, abrió la puerta y lo agarró salvandole la vida. Lo llevó a su oficina esperando que apareciera alguien que pudiera adoptarlo.

Michael lo trajo a casa en el bolsillo de su terno, al sacarlo me dijo “te traje un gato, míralo que es chiquito”….desde entonces Chiquito se quedó con nosotros y fue bautizado con ese nombre en alusion a su tamaño, el cual mas tarde dejó de tener relación porque se convirtió en un gato grande, hermoso, alegre, robusto y saludable.

Fue mi primer gato como mascota, él se propuso conquistarme y yo permití que lo hiciera. Le llegué a prodigar todos los cuidados maternos que podía desarrollar; recuerdo que le dabamos de beber leche en un biberon miniatura porque aún era muy pequeñito para poder tomarla solo, además le permitimos que durmiera en nuestra cama hasta que él decidió buscar su propio refugio, pero siempre retornaba a ella especialmente en los dias frios.

Tan pronto el clima iba mejorando, todas las mañanas a las diez de la mañana lo bajaba al patio trasero del apartamento que en ese entonces viviamos para que tomara su baño de sol. El correteaba y saltaba feliz en el pasto, daba voltaretas, caminaba, se subía a algún árbol, corría detrás de alguna ardilla errante y por supuesto algunas veces se enfrascó en pelea con algún gato vecino, al que seguramente consideraba su rival, o que no había respetado su territorio ya delimitiado. También me pasaba cabeza escabulléndose hacia los patios aledaños, No le importaba cuántas veces lo llamara se hacía el necio y no aparecía hasta que le diera su regalada gana.

Por las noches él se bajaba los dos pisos del apartamento por el porche trasero y cruzaba la calle donde se reunía con su grupo de amigos –los otros gatos del vecindario que compartían sus mismos intereses- pero estaba siempre alerta y tan pronto reconocía el sonido del carro de Michael se acercaba a saludarlo enrrollándose en las piernas en espera de de una palabra cortés y una palmadita por parte de su papi; después de este rito regresaba de inmediato a seguir de juerga con su pandilla.

Nunca supimos a qué hora de la madrugada volvía a casa porque preveyendo que su parranda nocturna duraría muchas horas dejábamos entreabierta una ventana por la que el entraba al apartamento, y al siguiente dia se levantaba hambriento con cara de inocente.

Una ocasión mientras merendábamos decidió caminar sobre las barandas del porche, de repente perdió el equilibrio y se cayó, todos los vimos como en cámara lenta y corrimos a asomarnos para darnos cuenta que él ya se había levantado y siguió caminando bien horondamente. Queriendo demostrar sus habilidades acrobáticas del mismo porche se cayó otras veces, pero nunca se quebró ni un huesito.

Chiquito nos hizo pasar un gran susto cuando creimos que había muerto congelado. Nunca olvidaré aquel uno de abril de 1997. Esa manaña (día de los inocentes acá) despertamos aletargados después de una de las más tremendas tormentas de nieve que me ha tocado presenciar. Las reseñas en los diarios de la época calificaron a las 25.4 pulgadas, que cayeron en Boston, como la tempestad de nieve más grande de la historia de la ciudad, convirtiéndolo en el abril más nevoso.

Al levantarme y no ver a Chiquito por ningún lado llegué a pensar que se había escabullido la noche anterior cuando los chicos salieron a mirar la nevada; empecé a gritar histéricamente y a buscarlo sin éxito, era casi seguro que la nieve lo habia enterrado en el porche. Tan pronto los chicos pudieron palearon la mayoria de la nieve pero Chiquito no apareció en la superficie y el misterio continuaba….agotados todos nuestros esfuerzos nos fuimos a descansar con la convicción de que se habia caido y habia muerto congelado sin haber sido ayudado. Más tarde, cuando ya estábamos casi resignados, Gabe bajó al sótano a lavar su ropa, al regresar Chiquito subió detrás de él bien horondo dándonos una mirada remilgona cuando en coro gritamos su nombre, a viva voz y llenos de alegria. Nunca supimos donde se metió poque la búsqueda también cubrió esa parte de la casa, lo que si nos quedó claro fue que Chiquito nos hizo una buena pasada y nos jugó una gran inocentada!

Quizás sea verdad que los gatos tienen 9 vidas por eso sobrevivió toda clase de golpes y porrazos y hasta el ataque de una gata intrusa que lo mordió tan ferozmente que casi le causa la muerte. Eso ocurrió mientras Michael estaba en Ecuador, Gabe en Atlanta y en casa estábamos él yo y Joey. La noche del 31 de agosto de 1997 mientras miraba en la tele las imágenes del trágico accidente de la prima Lady Di, mi bello Chiqui casi se muere a causa de una gran infección que le habia provocado aquella mordida la cual yo no habia descubierto porque él optó por comportarse de manera escurridiza, como poco lo veia por los alrededores, no había tenido oportunidad de chequearlo ya que pasaba escondido.

Asumo que se sintió traicionado por su papi al aceptar tener en casa a aquella malvada gata por hacerle un favor a su no mala dueña que luego no quiso aceptar ningna responsabilidad.

Recuerdo que aquella noche con sus últimas fuerzas trataba de subirse a la cama, en el momento que lo agarré para ayudarlo noté que volaba en fiebre, casi sin aliento, como si fuera su último suspiro simuló un maullido; fue entonces cuando comprendí la magnitud de asunto y desesperada empecé a buscar alguna solución.

Me costó convencer a Joey para que me ayude, después de tanto ruego e insistencia llamó a Donna (en aquel entonces amiga de ellos y conocida mia) ella contactó a su veterinario y éste aceptó atenderlo a pesar de lo tarde que era. A las once de la noche tomamos un taxi y llegamos donde el amable, cortés y sabio veterinario que decidió operarlo de inmediato (casi media noche) porque si no lo hacía Chiquito no amanecía. El quedó hospitalizado por una semana; mientras se recuperaba fui a visitarlo cada dia y luego que dejó la clínica lo llevaba para que le curaran la herida, algunas veces en comapañia de Gabe y otras de su papi. Nuestra querida amiga Donna no sólo le salvo la vida sino que junto a su esposo David le prodigaron cariño, atención y cuidado durante los cinco meses que pasamos en Ecuador. Chiquito compartió con ellos parte de los que fueron sus últimos meses de buena vida.

A Chiquito le encantaba dormir en lugares oscuros, buscaba el lugar perfecto hasta encontarlo, siendo asi encontró un hueco en el piso de uno de los dormitorios (que ninguno de nosotros habiamos divisado) y dado el misterio de su desaparicion nos toco hacerle la guardia hasta darnos cuenta de donde salia, Todos los dias se metía en él hasta que sentía hambre y salía a buscar comida, o hacer sus necesidades, y luego volvia a su escondite secreto.

Más tarde nos tocó mudarnos de apartamento y dada la escaséz nos decidimos por uno no tan cómodo ni bonito que ni a él ni a mi nos gustó. Cuando se dio cuenta de la mudanza se rehusó a dejarse agarrar, tal es asi que tuvimos que dejarlo en el antiguo apartamento porque saltó por la ventana tratando de escapar, decidimos recogerlo cuando ya hubiéramos sacado todos los trastos, asi le dábamos un poco de seguridad y tranquilidad. Mas tarde cuando regresamos a recogerlo nos costó mucho trabajo atraparlo, salí con grandes y profundos rasguños y el fue llorando el corto trayecto entre el viejo y el nuevo apartamento. Al llegar desapareció de inmediato y por un par de dias no sabíamos dónde estaba, hasta que accidentalmente lo descubrí metido dentro de una maleta llena de ropa a la cual se le habia roto el cierre por eso le fue fácil introducirse en ella. Su encierro duró casi un mes y unicamente salía por las noches mientras nosotros dormíamos.

En otra ocasión, en otro de los apartamento que vivimos, logró sacar la rejilla que proteje el orificio que permite la salida de la calefacción; no notamos su desaparición hasta que empezamos a escuchar sus maullidos sin saber de dónde provenían. Dado tanto misterio nos tocó llamar al dueño de la casa para que revisara el sótano (nosotros no teníamos acceso) lo revisó minuciosamente sin encontrarlo. Lo cómico es que tan pronto él se iba nuevamente comenzábamos a escuchar sus aullidos, entonces decidí pegar la oreja en el piso hasta que descubrí que venían del ducto que conduce la calefaccion hacia la rejilla.

El dueño fue y vino 3 veces porque a Chiquito se le ocurrió jugar al ratón y al gato con él. Cuando sentía su presencia dejaba de maullar y cuando se iba nuevamente lo hacía. Lo cierto es que aunque le pedía que abriera el ducto no quería hacerlo porque no se convencía de que el gato estuviera ahi, aducía que el espacio era demasiado pequeño; finalmente a tanta insitencia -y creo que ya estaba cansado de ir y venir- lo hizo, y efectivamente ahi estaba atrapado el inquieto y curioso Chiquito.

Chiquito gozó de las características de un gato tabby (también llamado gato barcino en España, y en Hispanoamérica como gato atigrado) tuvo el distintivo pelaje de rayas y puntos de color anaranjado y ojos verdes muy expresivos, fue un gato guapo muy guapo, quienes lo veían, ya fuera a tavés de la ventana o personalmente expresaban su admiración por su belleza, él lo sabía y lo presumía, por eso se me ocurrió concederle el título de el gato mas guapo de Massachusetts, llamándolo con orgullo de esta manera cada vez que alguien lo alababa.

Su primer novia oficial fue Winter una gatita hermosa cuya ama es Carol, una colega de Michael y amiga mía. Con Carol y Winter, Chiquito pasó sus primeras vacaciones al nosotros viajar a Ecuador durante la navidad del 2007. Curiosamente Winter se le adelantó y falleció hace pocos meses. Nunca mas volvieron a verse pero estamos seguros que ya se reencontraron.

Le gustaba mucho tener privacidad por eso no quería ser visto hacia donde se dirigía cuando iba a tomar sus siestas; además en cada uno de los apartamentos que hemos vivido él se apropiaba de varios lugares específicos y de siesta en siesta los rotaba en uso, yo le decía que se creía magnate inmobiliario. A lo mejor fue la reencarnacion de alguno de ellos.

En su niñez fue huraño, receloso y tímido corría a esconderse debajo de la cama cuando escuchaba voces extrañas pero poco a poco su comportamiento y personalidad cambiaron, empezó a confiar más en la gente y en su juventud se hizo más sociable, vivaz y simpático. Vivió su adultez de manera independiente y reposada, aunque con el paso del tiempo fueron notándosele los años y el deterioro en su salud. Sufrió de diabetes la misma que le provocó una insuficiencia renal y otras complicaciones relacionadas con esa enfermedad.

Nuestro bello y amado Chiqui -como todo gato- fue inquieto, travieso, curioso, también fue temeroso, reservado y afectuoso, aveces sumiso y otras rebelde, orgulloso y pretencioso, y cuando le convenía era encantador y amistoso. Muy inteligente y capáz de entender instrucciones en español e inglés.

Compartió casi toda su vida con nuestra no menos querida y amada Honey -su hermana de crianza- aunque no congeniaban mucho se cuidaban y se hacían compañia el uno con la otra. Ambos han recibido nuestro amor, cuidado y cariño, asi como el de las personas que los han cuidado durante nuestras ausencias relacionadas con nuestros viajes. A parte de las ya mencionadas le estaremos eternamente agradecidos a: Mila, Jean, Carmen, Juanita, Melissa, Marcela y su familia política. Y quizás otras más que se me pueden escapar.

Chiquito siempre se identificó más con su papi que con su mami, yo le decía que me quería por interés porque solo me buscaba cuando quería comida o cepillada. Cuando la enfermedad que lo afectó comenzó hacerle estragos llegó a despertarme tres o cuatro veces en la medianoche, y aunque viera a su papi despierto no le pedía comida a él sino a mí, solía llamarlo cargoso porque se deleitaba interrumpiéndome el sueño dándome suaves rascaditas con sus uñitas delanteras para no lastimarme. Bromeando su papi decía que le gustaba mas mi sazón que la de él. En el fondo yo creo que tenían un pacto secreto.
Por las mañanas siempre esperaba a que el papi se levantara a preparar su café para ganársele el puesto en la cama.

Cuando el papi regresaba de la oficina él estaba atento y lo seguía hasta que le prestara atención, luego se subía a la cama y lo esperaba para que lo rascara.
Por las noches sentado en las piernas del papi, mientras éste trabajaba en la computadora, casi siempre conversaban de cosas masculinas, tal es asi que llegaron a formar un club sólo para hombres donde ellos dos eran los únicos socios, no permitiendo que ni Honicita ni yo participaramos en sus conversaciones o actividades.

Chiquito fue enterrado en el jardin de nuestra actual morada, desde alli nos verá cada vez que entremos o salgamos además cuidará de nosotros de su ñaña y del apartamento donde vivió sus últimos dias. Estamos seguros que él sabe que aunque lo hayamos enterrado en ese lugar especial, nunca enterraremos los gratos recuerdos que nos ha dejado y los bellos momentos que compartimos.

Gracias querido y bello Chiquito por habernos acompañado por casi 15 años, te llevaremos siempre en nuestro corazón y tu presencia la veremos manifestada en tu ausencia temporal porque algún día nos recibirás con alegría y gozo en aquel infinito e indescifrable lugar donde ahora estás.

Descanza en paz querido hijo!

Santa Norma Blesses Us All

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Norma Moreira with a calabash Nativity scene, from her native Ecuador, among the dozens of creches she has collected from around the world.

This Christmas, Norma Moreira and her husband are sharing their home with 45 wise men.

Moreira, who immigrated to the United States from Ecuador in 1996, has been acquiring Nativity scenes for the past two decades. With her collection now standing at 58 (15 of which contain the three wise men), images of a cluttered storefront might come to mind. But when you consider that some figures are not much larger than a fingernail, it’s easy to understand how Moreira is able to comfortably share her Watertown home with all those creches.

from the Boston Globe, Christmas Day 2008

Merry Christmas, everyone! We couldn’t be prouder of our lovely and loving wife who today was profiled in a feature in the Boston Globe.  This story began as a blog posting on Dowbrigade News two years ago. A few weeks ago, Norma suggested I submit it to the Globe. Her collection has grown in the past two years, and they jumped on it like dogs on a meat wagon.

Let the record show that the Dowbrigade considers himself the luckiest man in the world for having found the perfect wife for his problematic personality.

Bumpkin Country

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The Dowbrigade uses an icebreaking exercise with groups of recently arrived students in which one of the categories for discussion is “One thing you really want to do before you leave Boston”. When our turn came we always list visiting the Harbor Islands, something we have yet to do 37 years after we first came to live in the Boston area. This may be our chance.

from the Boston Globe

Bumpkin Island

Take the ferry to Bumpkin Island this weekend, and you may come across a woman lurking in the underbrush, wearing burlap covered with leaves. Don’t be alarmed: She’s not a kook. She’s an artist.

So are the men in kimonos staging lectures and the folks who may invite you to chat with them via tin-can telephone.

About 40 artists have spread out across the Boston Harbor Island for Labor Day weekend as part of a special event called the Bumpkin Island Art Encampment, featuring 10 art installations, sculptures, and performances.

It’s free and open to the public today through Monday; ferries are available to the island from various locations.

Some of the artists are exploring the idea of home. With “Survival Kit,” Gabe Moylan and Rachel Roberts are trying to create a space of domestic tranquility using only a Federal Emergency Management Association survival kit and what is available on the island.

Other pieces have been sparked by 19th century history. “Astrodime Transit Authority,” the tin-can project, commemorates the 150th anniversary of the first official use of the trans-Atlantic cable – an 1858 telegram to President James Buchanan from Britain’s Queen Victoria.

At low tide, when it’s possible to wade to the mainland, a group plans to set up a tin-can call from Bumpkin Island to nearby Hull. They will invite visitors to join in a reenactment, playing an extended game of telephone.

Mercy Killing

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The call came in on Sunday morning, interrupting the time honored ritual of newspapers, coffee and pastries in bed. The unfamiliar female voice asked in halting, heavily accented English, “Is you Michol?” It turned out to be a friend of a distant cousin of Norma Yvonne, who claimed she knew us when we lived in Guayaquil, and who now, apparently, resided in Orlando.

I vaguely remembered her. Short, dark and sweet, a description that could apply to 90% of Ecuadorian women. Married to a guy called “el Chino”, ten years ago they ran the snack bar on the campus of the Holy Spirit University, where the Dowbrigade was head of the English Department and Norma Yvonne was the University Registrar. In Ecuador, anyone with slanty or squinty eyes is called “Chino”.

In the intervening decade, el Chino died and Mercy moved to Florida, where she met a Gringo, got married, and now is thinking of moving back to Ecuador. She ran on and on, in Spanish, telling me her life story.

We thought, “Why is she telling me all of this?”

We said, “Would you like to talk to Norma?”

Meanwhile, Norma, who was traipsing around the apartment in a devastating crepe sun dress, was vigorously shaking her head and wagging her finger in the international gesture for “I’m not here!”

“No, actually,” stammered Mercy, “I wanted to talk to you. Or rather, I want you to talk to my husband. Since he’s a Gringo, and you’re a Gringo, I thought maybe you could talk to him and tell him about Ecuador.” She sounded strangely desperate.

We thought, “She wants to take him back to Ecuador but he’s scared of the jungle diseases and savage tortoises. We should hang up.”

We said, “I’d be happy to speak to him. Put him on.”

Best to bite the bullet and get it over with a quickly as possible, we figured. Misanthropic in general, the Dowbrigade regards talking to people he doesn’t know on the phone at the behest of relatives he barely knows as one rung above taking cold calls from script-reading Mongolians at dinnertime.

But Mercilessly, Mercy went on. “He’s really a very nice person. Although everybody probably says that about their husbands.”

We thought, “Why is she apologizing for him already? I haven’t heard anything bad yet.”

We said, “I’m sure Eva Braun thought Hitler was a wonderful fellow.”
She said, “Excuse me?”

We thought, “What am I doing? She probably thinks I’m talking about people we know in Guayaquil. The last thing we want to be doing on a Sunday morning is discussing the personal life of Adolph Hitler with this woman!”

We said, “Never mind. Let me talk to your husband.”

When we finally got him on the line, we got right to the point. “Mercy tells us you are thinking of relocating to Ecuador. What can I tell you about?”

“I was mostly interested in the job possibilities down there, and the cost of living. Stuff like that.”

“Well, the job possibilities depend on the particular area in which you want to work. What field are you in?”

“Actually, I have experience in many different fields. As my Grandfather used to say, a jack of all trades and master of none, ha ha.”

We thought, “Loser.”

We said, “That’s really useful. Where are you working now, if you don’t mind my asking, and what kind of work do you plan to look for in Guayaquil?”

He said, “Law Enforcement”

We thought, “Security guard”

We said, “We can’t really recommend public law enforcement as a profession in South America. They don’t receive much in the way of salaries and subsist on bribes and extortion. A lot of them make a little extra on the side working nights with the death squads. There isn’t a lot of job security, though – a lot of them end up in jail, the ones that don’t get shot because the drug gangs are much better armed.”

He didn’t say anything, which we took as encouragement to continue on.

“Of course, there is always a market for private security and bodyguards. Especially right now, since the big kidnapping gangs from Colombia have started to branch out across the border into Ecuador. Those guys are really savage, they usually cut off the victims left hand and send it to the family to show they are serious. If you don’t pay, they cut off the head and send that. Just about everyone with money has a few bodyguards with them at all times these days. Most millionaires keep a few guards at home as well, since the big gangs sometimes attack their mansions with battering rams to smash the steel doors and heavy automatic weapons to discourage resistance. There are usually a lot of openings since turnover is high. Are you good with a gun?”

“Wow,” he sounded stunned, “I didn’t realize things were so out of control down there.”

“Yeah, well, there are a lot of guns and violence, but the people really like Americans, and the cost of living is quite reasonable. You can rent a house for $400 or $500, and you can’t spend $20 in a good restaurant, unless you drink.”

“Sounds like you’d need a drink, once in a while.”

“Too true, but you’ve got to be careful because the muggers can smell the booze a block off and congregate like piranhas smelling blood in the water.”

“Well, thanks for the info. I’ll put Mercy back on.”

“Not necessary. Tell her to call back some evening. We’re sure Norma would LOVE to hear from her.”

Lilac Tuesday and Artificial Intelligence

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Every May, without fail, the Dowbrigade drifts into a fragrant nostalgic reverie when the lilacs come into bloom. We grew up in upstate New York, near Rochester’s Highland Park, which together with the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, claim to be the largest collections in the world, and in our neighborhood every house had at least a few bushes (Mom counted 19 at our house on East Boulevard). Peak lilac season comes later in Rochester; the last week of May or the first week of June. For fifteen days the normally dowdy aging urbe would be decked out in garlands and leis and smelling like Aphrodite in heat. I remember that each year at the height of lilac season the P’s would invite my elementary school teacher over for dinner. By that time the interminable upstate soggy spring had given way to better weather and we usually ate out on the porch, with lilac bushes pressing against the screens and a few sprigs of purple, or white, or vermilion in vases on the table.

New England’s best lilac collection is at the Arnold Arboretum, the Harvard University botanical collection in Jamaica Plain, which boasts over 450 bushes, including a magnificent variety of colors and forms, both single flowering and the rarer double flowering “French lilacs”. We had hoped to take Norma Yvonne last weekend, but the poor woman is currently working a full-time bank job and teaching 10 courses in the evenings and consequently basically rolls up into a ball when she finishes at 12:45 Saturday and tries to recuperate as much strength as possible before she has to start again on Monday morning.

Besides, how could I miss Bar Camp?

So, taking advantage of a break in our teaching schedule, we went out yesterday. After an hour or so of tramping around the Arboretum listening to Jimi Hendrix on our chi-pod, we wandered into the lilacs. We approached the collection, strewn on a sunny hillside, sort of like an art museum. We would approach each bush like the masterpiece it was, peering from various distances. By squinting, or letting our orbs slide slightly out of focus, we could make each flowery explosion of color into a Cezanne, or a Monet, or a Pissaro. Finally, we would stick our head into the fattest and most fecund bunch of blossoms and inhale deeply.

Our head was spinning by the time we plopped down next to a particularly pungent purple exemplar and opened the book we had brought with us, Marvin Minsky’s “The Emotion Machine”, which is modestly subtitled “Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind.”

We must say we are disappointed, so far (we are still on Chapter 2). His basic idea is that the human mind is very complicated and contains many specific abilities which he calls “resources” and active agents he calls “critics” which determine which resources will be brought to bear on each situation or problem.

Our first impression is that this ground was covered more comprehensively 40 years ago by John C. Lilly, who argued in Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer (1967) that because we don’t have time to think out each step of our reactions in real-time situations, we rely on pre-established programs of how to behave, and that which of these programs snap into place when we are confronted with specific cues or triggers is controlled by metaprograms.

“Each mammilian brain functions as a computer, with properties, programs and metaprograms partly to be defined and partly to be determined by observation. The human computer contains at least 13 billion active elements….Among other know properties are self-programming and self-metaprogramming.” (Lilly ’67)

Lilly goes on to argue that humans can gain access to and actually reprogram these metaprograms through a variety of techniques including meditation and other rigorous mental disciplines, transcendent religious experiences and directed drug use, an approach which seems to offer more possibilities for actually improving our system software than Minsky’s.

In fact, we have spent the past 35 years, since we first read Lilly’s seminal paper as an undergrad, trying to implement its implications and modify our metaprograms. We can report mixed results: we no longer become a stuttering idiot in the presence of beautiful women, but we still break out in a cold sweat at the thought of an approaching dental appointment.

Still, perhaps we are jumping to conclusions. The remaining 7 chapters in the Minsky book may contain some new ideas or useful elaborations.

We didn’t bring any lilacs back to Norma or to brighten the apartment. Breaking branches off a living bush seems like a sacrilege today, although we know they will fade and die on the vine soon enough. It’s enough to know that they’ll be there still next May, filling the late spring air with the scent of seasons long past and far away.

Toilet Museum Moving to Watertown

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WATERTOWN – The newest addition to Pleasant Street certainly doesn’t stink.

What was once a tourist attraction in Worcester is now heading through the pipelines to Watertown. The American Sanitary Plumbing Museum, aka “the toilet museum,” is moving to the West End with a promise to “bowl” people over.

The largest plumbing contractor in New England, J.C. Cannistraro LLC, has inherited the collection. It plans to expand the museum at the company’s headquarters on Rosedale Road, off the Pleasant Street corridor. The museum will be relocated to a 150-year-old former icehouse located on the property.

John Cannistraro Jr., president of J.C. Cannistraro LLC, said the
visitors in Watertown can expect an expanded display of the collection
— antique commodes, wooden pipes, water heaters, chain-pull toilets and
ornate porcelain thrones dating back to the early 19th century —
portraying a “progression of the industry” from the 1700s through today.

from the Watertown Tab

The Dowbrigade has a long-standing interest in toilets in general and urinals in particular, and so the news that a world-class collection is moving to our own town has filled us with excitement and civic pride. We can’t wait to call our brother-in-law in Flushing, NY to crow.

In fact, we have documented several possible additions to this valuable collection, including the candy-apple red open-mouthed urinal and the anti-drunk driving talking urinal from New Mexico. We definitely will have to give Mr. Cannistraro a call…..

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From the Eruption Zone

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Boy, have we ever gotten behind in our postings. But, thats what vacations are for, we guess. Currently in Baños, Ecuador, nested in the skirts of Mt. Tunguragua, an active vocano which is currently acting up; booming and smoking and spraying mile-high plumes of smoke into the air. We have been told that if we hear sirens, its time to evacuate. My, it seems the explosions are getting closer and closer together. Theres one every few minutes now.

Almost 8 pm on New Years Eve. Weve managed to upload a few pictures from the eruption zone. Enjoy the party. Happy New Year everyone.

Baños photo album

Scary scary costumes

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Can you spot the real Dowbrigade? On Halloween (which would have been game 7 of the World Series that wasn’t) we were confronted, at the ungodly hour of 9 AM, by an apparition that would curdle the hair of any sane teacher – a dozen Dowbrigades! Luckily the Dowbrigade has little of either hair or sanity these days….

Here’s the on-line album of photos by Koji

Accidents Happen

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As if we weren’t worried enough about our personal security, what with radioactive waste and deadly pathogens in the vicinity (see previous post), as we went to park at our local sports bar for lunch, right around the corner from  our home (see church in background), we were confronted by a scene out of a disaster movie.

Actually, it was all rather innocuous.  A Yellow delivery truck (it looked orange to us, but we are somewhat colorblind) making a delivery at the fabulous CuCu Club, got hooked on some cables and brought down a utility pole. We passed up the light, flaky fish and chips from Donahue’s we had been looking forward to and settled for a Cubano from the diner on the corner instead.

BTW, a re-election kickoff party for JD Donahue (Watertown City Councilor at Large) will be held tomorrow night at the Ancient Order of Hiberian Hall at 6:30. Local politics rule! Support your local sports bar – and its owner.

Dowbrigade Living on Radioactive Waste

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Several large properties in the East End of Watertown, including a nearly 12-acre swath of land at Greenough Boulevard and Arsenal Street that was once used to burn depleted uranium from a Watertown Arsenal nuclear reactor, are undergoing close scrutiny to determine how badly contaminated they are and who is responsible for cleaning them up.

The status of the former uranium disposal site is in limbo, as state and federal agencies haggle over who should make the land safe for public use.

from the Boston Globe

Are you kidding us?!!? That 12-acre swath of land at Greenough Boulevard and Arsenal Street is FOUR BLOCKS from the Dowbrigade’s Fortress of Solitude and Rest Home, from whence we pen this post.

And now, after three years we discover that we are living atop a nuclear waste dump! And that the area in which we live is undergoing “close scrutiny” to see how badly contaminated it is! And we thought the reason the walls glow at night is that the previous tenants had used that luminescent “Glowz” paint.

The Watertown Arsenal is a huge red-brick conglomeration stretching almost a half mile along Arsenal St. in Watertown, which abuts Cambridge on the east and the Charles River on the south. Part of the wave of urban arsenal construction during the buildup to WWII, it is being converted piecemeal into retail and high-tech rental space.

We had always envisioned that era as a patriotic jamboree of American industrial stockpiling, with endless rows of jeeps and lorries, neatly packed and stacked gas masks and maybe an occasional Sherman tank or amphibious half-track waiting for the call which eventually came and went. This is the first we have heard about the existence of a WATERTOWN ARSENAL NUCLEAR REACTOR!

We have long been aware that the neighboring People’s Republic of Cambridge was a nuclear power. The research reactor at MIT, a squat white dome tucked behind Central Square on the MIT campus was both a scary reminder of the isotopes among us and a noteworthy driveby on the tourist’s tour of Cambridge, between the excretionary Stata Center and the corner in Cambridgeport where the Toasted Toga Taco House once stood. The joke, back in the day, was that if the Northeast power grid ever went down, at least Cambridge would have lights.

But who suspected that a stone’s throw away, stuffed under the radar by the nefarious military industrial complex, was a working military reactor producing weapons-grade plutonium waste.

Or that this highly radioactive waste was being BURNED IN AN INCINERATOR, with the ensuing smoke and ash left unfiltered to drift down on the neighborhood and contaminate people, pets and the places they live.

We thought the operant debate was whether to bury our radioactive waste for 20,000 years under Yucca Mountain near Bumfuck, Nevada, or find some obscure third-world cesspool desperate enough for US protection or pandering to take it off our hands. Or somehow shoot it into the sun (our personal favorite). Little did we know that another alternative existed – just throw it in an incinerator a few blocks from Dowbrigade headquarters!

Taken on top of the developing story that our august employer is in the process of constructing a Biosafety Level-4 lab, where scientists will fool around with microscopic killers such as Ebola, plague, and anthrax right across the street from the Boston Medical Center, which just happens to contain our dentist’s office, we are feeling less and less secure these days.

Now, we are trying not to panic with the implications of this news. We are desperately looking for a lighter side of this situation. So far, the best we can come up with is this:

Since our governor seems so determined to bring legal gambling to Massachusetts, perhaps the state will give us odds as to the relative likelihood of succumbing to radiation poisoning as opposed to some mutant strain of the plague.

All kidding aside, folks, is anyone else concerned about the recently revealed Watertown Nuclear Reactor, and the radioactive waste in our gardens and yards? Or are we being needlessly paranoid again?

Frankly, we love living in Watertown. It is quiet, family oriented, and a mere 20 minutes from our office by car or bicycle. Our neighbors are all Armenians, which is fine as long as we don’t bring home any Turkish taffy. Our garden is thriving. In fact, we have a fat, juicy tomato on our nightstand right now, serving as a nightlight.

Shoulder Shopping

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The Dowbrigade’s local supermarket has been undergoing a major makeover, and it was as if, had we been a pre-super hunter gatherer, the bison herd had suddenly disappeared.

Despite completely reoutfitting and reorganizing the entire store, they managed to stay open 24-7 throughout, doing most of the dangerous, disruptive work late at night. For three months, we couldn’t find anything. It was like a black market, or a sidewalk sale, where the goods one was perusing could suddenly up and move to the next corner at the approach of a flatfoot.

Now that they’ve finished the work and reinagurated the branch (witnessed by a photo of the store manager and the regional manager posing around a frosted blue cake) things are barely better. Either the new layout is designed to confuse, or the Dowbrigade is getting too old to adjust our grazing patterns. Little things irritate us; the boxes of apple crisp are no longer on top of the apples and the Lactaid is now on a different aisle than the regular milk. How dare they!

But the worst is the fact that the newly expanded “Nature’s Choice” health food aisle has been relocated directly across from the snack food aisle. As we shamble down the aisle in our polyester Hawaiian shorts, fishnet tank top and fur-lined slippers, it is like we have a tiny angel on one shoulder and that damn little devil on the other.

“Oh, get the fat-free rice cakes. They make great snacks.”

“Forget that junk! We got candied macadamia nuts over here.”

“Well, if you must have something sweet, why not Granny Ruth’s Organic Granola with Carob?”

“Are you kidding? Grab some Nacho chips and Cheese-like Dip. They’re on sale!”

Our head rotates back and forth as though we were courtside at Wimbledon. Fearing whiplash, or worse, the dreaded 360 degree Exorcist headspin, we flee the premises. We may have to find another supermarket, where the food doesn’t talk to us.

Comic of the Day

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This has become a regular point of contention between the Dowbrigade and his main feline spiritual advisor, Chiqui. Rather than walk on our face (always a risky proposition) Chiqui sits calmly and prudently a few inches to one side and gently paws somewhere in the nose-mouth region. What he means is A) fix my breakfast (he manages to survive on a protean diet of Sensitive Systems hi-tech dry food and boiled chicken breast B) scratch me, and C) don’t you have to be somewhere so I can have the bed to myself the rest of the day?

We have become used to this routine,and occasionally are able to perform our duties in a sufficiently somnambulistic manner to return to dreamland for a few precious minutes afterward. However, lately we have noticed a perturbing precision in Chiqui’s wakeup calls which have us wondering about collusion and outside agendas. Turns out Chiqui has been awakening me at precisely sunrise.

For example, today, according to the Boston Globe, the sun rose at precisely 6:21. Sure enough, at Chiqui’s first touch I looked at the clock, and it read 6:21. Yesterday, it was exactly 6:17, and the day before 6:14. Obviously, this is good news going into the Fall, as eventually we will be allowed to sleep past 7. But it is precisely the precision which has us wondering.

Has Chiqui learned to read the clock, and the Globe? Does he have some feline, or human, co-conspirator giving him cues? Does he have an internal clock even more precise than his master’s (we have never owned an alarm clock, and have never missed a plane)?

We are thinking of installing “Kitty Cams” to find out what he really does all day while we are at work…..