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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Archives for: May 2006

Scaredy Cat

I like dogs because they are simple. They all have the same personality type. They are loyal and playful. Cats on the other hand are unfathomably complex, they sport intimidating attitudes and their personalities would perplex a consortium of weathered psychiatrists. It is not a coincidence that Andrew Lloyd Weber based his famous musical on a book about cats, for had he chosen dogs the whole skitty would have been over in less than 15 minutes (including an elaborate overture). There would be no Skimbleshanks, no Mistoffeles, no Grizabella.

I have no chance to ever comprehend cats. Yet somehow I always end up taking care of my friends' feline wonders. Which is strange, because -according to old family albums- my stroller was often guarded by a dog named "Gypsy" so I do owe the dogkind some serious babysitting time. Yet the only payment I was able to offer so far was a brief leash holding service to a mutt named Cobol that belonged to my old roommate Mike (can you guess what was Mike's major?). All my other friends decided to embroider my life with cats, whether it was Huckleberry, Jerry, Pele, or most recently Maddy.

Maddy belongs to my friend Sandy, and resides in a small apartment within an easy walk from my office. Every day I open the door, and Maddy sits on the mat directly behind, anxiously awaiting her rightful owner. When I came in the first day she ran away the moment she realized I am a guy - which puts me clearly in a Non-Sandy category of people. So on my next visit I entered the apartment very slowly, squatted immediately and tried to be as calm as possible. Maddy didn't move either and only gave me that steady John Wayne kinda look, while tickling the trigger of an imaginary colt with her front paw. No doubt she was born and raised in western Texas.

Well, for a while we just sat motionless, trying to stare each other down, but I finally caved in and moved and Maddy ran away into the bedroom and positioned herself deep underneath Sandy's bed. There she stayed for the rest of my visit. I am still not sure whether it was just an expression of her ultimate contempt for me or a manifestation of her superb mathematical skills (finding the exact geometric center of an unlit rectangle is quite a feat). Whatever it was, that scene repeated itself three more times until today she finally left her fortress and came out to kitchen to see whether I am filling her eating bowl properly.

I forgot to mention that my cell phone barks. I couldn't find an acceptable ringtone, so at the end I settled for a sound of some ferocious hound. And by an amazing coincidence, just as Maddy was approaching, Sandy called to see how Maddy was doing. Well, up to the point that my cell started ringing, Maddy was doing just fine. But when her ears caught the vehement barking of my cell, the look on her face hardened: "How come that this two-legged nuisance is making the same sound as the four-legged nuisance?" It was as if the Universe stopped making sense to her. Her upright tail paused for a second and then she turned around it and ran away again to ponder this conundrum in the privacy of her underbed kingdom.

Climbing Chomolungma

On this day, 53 years ago (which would be, hmmm, 1953), Sir Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay conquered Mt. Everest. When I was a kid I read this book about it, called "The Throne of Gods", which dramatically proclaimed that on May 29 at 11:30am both mountaineers had nowhere to climb for they were standing literally on the top of the world.

When I realized what day it was today, I started wondering whether I would be a good Sherpa and how would it feel to climb to 8,848 meters above the sea level (at which I pretty much live). Well, being a mathematician living on the second floor of an apartment complex, I took a tape measure and found that each of the fifteen stairs I have to climb to get to my door elevates me by 8 inches (20 cm), so that particular flight of stairs gives me 3 meters per climb. Suppose I climb it twice a day. That means I would need (8848:6) 1475 days to gain the desired altitude. Well, I started climbing these stairs on July 1, 2003 so my final climb to the peak should occur on (add 1475 days) July 15th, 2007.

On that day, I will wear firm shoes, an ice pick and a knapsack, possibly an oxygen mask, lest my neighbors have any doubts about my sanity, and I will conquer my Everest, or my Chomolungma as the natives call it. And on that day I will throw a party and Nepalese food will be served. So you guys mark your calendars and I have about a year to learn how to cook Daal Bhaat and Tarkari.

Liberated Balloon

My friend Louka had some friends visiting from California, so we went to the Tysons Galleria for a dinner. After a sampler of Lebanese cuisine we felt a bit of excitement was in order, so we went into the Mall and soon found a little purple balloon that was so delicately balanced that it floated gracefully when released and only reluctantly came back to the ground. That balloon had a short string and it occurred to me that the string itself may be that extra weight which is holding it down. With the help of my keys I removed the string and released the balloon. It hesitated a bit, suspended in the air, but then it started its slow ascent, like the Duchess of York measuring a staircase with her golden heels. It floated all the way up to the Mall's ceiling and never came back.

Sometimes the only difference between falling and flying is the burden of the string.

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