Sunny

My sweet little atheist kitty

Apparently some early Christians might have believed that Jesus was married.

This is probably blasphemous where you come from. But if a fourth-century fragment bearing Ancient Coptic Egyptian writing turns out to be authentic, then maybe you’re the one going to hell.

Personally, I find the suggestion of a Mrs Christ romantic. Imagine the fantastic Walt Disney movie that would have come out of that storyline.

There would be a big waltz scene, Jesus’ sidekick-animals looking on. A ferret, a tarantula in nanny glasses who knows all the Proverbs by heart, and the donkey from Shrek.

Then Jesus would suddenly run off because he was late for supper with the apostles.

But he promised to call her on Saturday.

We should pause now to acknowledge my christian loved ones. I am aware that this rendition of the Jesus story will seem offensive, perhaps.

So, let me tell you one thing in my defense.

I have a kitty.

He’s a six-and-a-half month old pure-bred Maine Coon we named Vince. He’s a healthy boy, with barely a mile on the odometer.

Purrs like a kitten.

He fetches small, woolen mice. He has inserted almost everything we own in his mouth. Except for maybe the refrigerator, but not from lack of trying. His ridiculous, outsized paws are an indication, I think, of the size he will reach once he has matured. This takes longer for Maine Coons than other varieties. Which is pretty cool, as far as Vince is concerned, because he loves being a kitten.

The tragedy is that Vince will never win a cat beauty contest. This is a huge disappointment for Jacquie in particular. You moms with ugly daughters know I’m talking about. Jacquie’s dreams have been dashed. But not because of Vince. It’s because of the “people who run those high society cat shows. They have this prejudice against polydactyls.

It doesn’t matter that Vince has a sexy breeder’s designation (Mainflame Red Hustler) and a documented pedigree, they’ll never think of a six-toed cat as anything but a freak.

Fuck ’em. Doesn’t matter. Jacquie and I have been in love with Vince since we picked him up four Saturdays ago.

In fact, buying Vince was the second best pet decision we have ever made. And it really helped us get over the terrible loss of Sunny, our previous cat who we’d had euthanized the hour before.

So, anyway, back to that papyrus. Not everyone is convinced about its authenticity. Experts disagree about the text’s grammar, and the ink has yet to be scrutinized. Results of that analysis will be discussed next year in the Harvard Theological Review.

The Holy See didn’t like the sound of this. They rejected the fragment as a clumsy forgery in the editorial page of the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. Of course, they don’t give a reason. They do run a companion article in which a church scholar criticizes the release of this information before it was tested. Which might be a valid criticism of professional conduct, perhaps, but really is a moot point. The papyrus is going to be tested, and then we’ll know more.

I don’t blame the church for being pissed. If I were a priest, and it turned out that Jesus was married after all, I would start to resent my career choice. Oh sure, there would always be the rosary to comfort me. But instead of the Hail Mary, I’d be saying “Shit! Shit! Shit!”

If it makes Christians feel any better, I highly doubt Jesus was married. After all, I ask you: what woman is good enough for a Jewish mother’s son? And don’t pretend Jesus wasn’t a Jew. He lived at home until he was 30 and his mother thought he was god. What else could he be but Jewish. (Well, Italian, but that’s a whole other blog post). Judging by 2,000 years of depictions of the crucifix in Western art, I’m surprised there isn’t something in the gospels about Holy Mary at the cross, calling up to her son, “You’re skin and bones.”

Oh, um. What were we saying about Vince?

I’ve been trying my hardest, but I just can’t work up a damn about Sunny’s death.

Sunny had a lot of problems. He was relatively old when rescued by the SPCA. They probably de-sexed him after he’d already developed secondary sexual characteristics. Like that vampire tweener from Let the Right One In. So it was kind of understandable that he’d be unfit for domestic life. We were Sunny’s third or fourth home when we took him in. And we tried our best with expensive medication and talk therapy to integrate him with our lives. For two years. For nothing. We were constantly under attack. We couldn’t move from room to room, or even our bed, without Sunny trying to claw or chew us to death. The final straw came three months ago when Sunny wrapped his claws around Jacquie’s head, sinking his teeth into her face and giving her deep cuts across her neck.

So coming to the end of our rope, and foreseeing a return to the SPCA as an ultimate death sentence for the poor guy anyway–and that after some indefinite solitary confinement at the rescue center–we decided to put him down. And we’ve never been happier. Which is why killing Sunny was the first best pet decision we ever made.

So what is it about the papyrus story that made me write this post?

Because it illustrates to me a fundamental error in the way people of faith deal with reality. A person of faith thinks something is true for any number of reasons. In many conversations with christians over the last year, these reasons tend to have boiled down to personal experience, miracle claims, or circular reasoning, or a combination of these. Regardless of what the reason is, it is never supported by objective measures.

This is true for extraordinary claims  of any kind, whether it’s about gods, astral traveling, ESP, the “plane of the eternal”, hydrotherapy, or anything else like what Carl Sagan writes about in The Demon Haunted World.  Christianity just happens to be closest to my heart. Many in my family are highly devout, as I was until about 20 years. They are convinced that Jesus is part of a trinity. They absolutely believe that everyone in the world deserves to be put to death, and that Jesus Christ can somehow save them. And they base this all on a compendium of books they swear is the infallible word of a presumed god. And how do they know all this? Because one day god changed their life and like the Catholic Church in the face of a married Jesus, nothing is going to change their minds. Not even if it were verified to be true. And this isn’t how people deal with reality in any other realm of their life, for the most part.

Well, by now, I doubt I have any readers, let alone Christian readers following along.

But at least I still have my cute little atheist kitty.

Oh. Oh, dear.

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My dog spider

I only ever wanted two things out of life when I was young.

The first was I wanted to grow up to be an irredeemable slob married to a woman of superior intelligence, wisdom, earning-potential and physical beauty, so inexplicably contrasting with my own qualities that people seeing us together in public would marvel, saying to one another “He must have a lot of money” by way of justification of this mystifying arrangement. In retrospect, my desire was not an overly ambitious one, considering that by the age of five, I was already considered by most experts on the matter to be a child prodigy in the “irredeemable slob” category. I was that much closer to attaining the American Dream.

The author (left) enjoying a visit with a family of domesticated Okies on display at the Monmouth County Fair Grooming Stables in Red Bank, New Jersey, 1979. The author exhibited from a young age a preternatural instinct for becoming a slob.

The stunned, even offended expressions of our wedding guests as Jacquie and I marched to the altar that infamous day in 2007 only confirmed my sense of pride and masculine achievement. Perhaps the prospect of such a match was revolting to our friends and relatives who saw it as a defilement of nature. How could anyone argue with that? But nobody that day would even dare try to come between me and my happiness.

And I was happy. For a while. Then I became depressed, a contributing factor to which was the realization that though I was married to someone who smelled better than me, had more money in her pocket, knew her way around dental floss and could fill out a tax form, whereas I was limited to signing my name with an X (drawn in crayon), there was still that other thing missing from my life. I felt its absence sorely.

I did not have a devoted pet, the kind of animal I imagined when I was 11 I would eventually have by the time I was an adult: a furry thing that would wait by the door every night for me to come home from my job sorting the discount sex-toy bin at a local adult-emporium. But that was just a childhood fantasy. The reality is, I don’t have my dream-job sorting the discount sex-toy bin at the local adult emporium. Nor do I have anything more companionable in my life than my cat, Sunny, an orange miscreant with a bad attitude, a short temper and shiv-like claws with which to kill and maim.

My bad luck seemed to have finally changed recently. A winter storm had caused a power outage in Mt. Eden.  The house was dark when I came home from work. I was instantly surprised to feel something furry nuzzling my leg. I thought I’d finally gotten that pet dog I always wanted. I couldn’t see him very well in the candle-light, but he was real friendly and we played for a long time. I kept throwing things and he kept bringing them back.

Woof, woof, woof, woof.

Come on boy. That's it. Come to daddy. Who wants to go for a walk? You do. Oh yes you do.

Wait a minute. Something's not right here

Apparently, my dog was really a Black House Spider (Badumna insignis). What I thought was playful cavorting was actually its attempted insemination of my leg using its palps. And what I thought was me having fun and enjoying myself turned out to actually be excruciatingly painful swellings, nausea, vomiting, sweating, giddiness and skin lesions from multiple venomous fang marks.

The Perils of Workplace Onanism

Here’s a fun comic everyone can relate to. Unfortunately, I can’t fit this into the blog at a legible scale (same problem as the last time I tried this.)

The only way to read the comic seems to be to click on it. It should open in a new window at full size.

But the important thing is to have a good time.

So without further ado, here’s Sunny and Boba in “Curiosity Kill” (Written by me and Jacquie. With special thanks to Jimbo’s brand pet food).

Distance-Learning: Empathy

Early this month, there was a serious earthquake on Te Waka-a-Maui, the South Island of New Zealand. One person died from cardiac arrest in the 7.1 magnitude tremor. Damage to the city of Christchurch and the region was extensive.

Though Auckland is 650 miles away on the North Island (Te Ika-a-Maui) I knew exactly what those people were going through and my heart went out to them.

It was a terrible day. I found out my supermarket no longer sold Wattie’s reduced-fat, low-salt Vienna sausages at two cans for the price of one. “Why god?” I screamed. “Why do you let such terrible things happen?”

The manager came over to see what the fuss was about. Of course, this forced me to exchange a few unpleasant words with her. The whole experience was so distasteful that I now suffer PTSD because of it.

Anywhoodles, the Canterbury Earthquake, as the tremor has been dubbed, was the eighth most powerful to hit New Zealand in modern history. I’m not likely to forget it any time soon because my brother-in-law told me a funny Holocaust joke that day.

He’d heard it from a German comedian whose name I can’t remember. Probably not Adolph, times being as they are.

I remember feeling bad about us being too flippant in light of tragedy. Sure, the Holocaust was a long time ago, but some people haven’t gotten over it yet.

Just then, the TV flashed a telephone number for us to call if we wanted to help out with the earthquake relief effort.

I wanted to help, nay I was compelled to help.

Operator: Relief hotline.

Me: I want to help, nay I’m compelled to help. You’re not getting my money. And I hate needles so if it’s blood you’re after, you’d better find yourself another stooge.

Operator: Do you have any clothes?

Me: You can have my old pleated khakis. But only as an anonymous gift. I won’t be known as the guy who gave pleated pants. Just because I’m generous doesn’t mean I have to come out looking like a chump, you know what I’m saying?

Operator: Um–

Me: What I really want to donate is a special gift: the gift of laughter.

Operator: Uh–

Me: You know, the gift of humor. You like Holocaust jokes, right?

Operator: I’m not sure–

Me: Sure you do. I’ll tell you one and then you can spread it. Share it with as many earthquake survivors you want. Or Holocaust survivors for that matter. But really, if there’s some guy trapped under some rubble and they’re not going to be able to dig him out for a few days, what better way to cheer him up? Only, he probably shouldn’t laugh too much because of the oxygen situation but you’ll figure it out.

Operator: Sir–

Me: Come on. Laughter is the best medicine. So here goes. My grandfather died in the Holocaust…yeah, he fell from a guard-tower at Auschwitz.

I’ll never know where my gift of humor ended up because somehow the telephone line was cut off, probably due to one of the Canterbury Quake’s hundreds of aftershocks.

But from that day on, I was filled with love for all living creatures. Sheep, specifically. September is lambing season so the sheep get all up in your face and the fields are dewey and red with discarded placentas and the hills and paddocks are alive with the sound of little hooves squishing said placentas.

A (an?) ewe and her newborn lamb at One Tree Hill in the city of Auckland. The sheep-birthing process is quick and painless, as this photograph clearly illustrates. One minute, you're in the fetal position, the next--boing, boing, boing--you're hoovering grass like you were in some kind of friggin' bucolic idyl and shit. (Photo by Harold "Doc" Edgerton).

There’s been trouble, though. The news has reported that this has been such a cloudy, rainy spring (which in NZ officially begins Sept. 1, three weeks before the equinox). Consequently, the lambs aren’t getting enough sunshine and many are dying, ostensibly from being wet and cold. (Welcome to New Zealand).

So, Jacquie and I went to One Tree Hill last week to see the poor creatures. I mean, what a tragedy, lambs dying before anyone got a chance to eat them.

And now for a random selection of recent photographs. (Note to Matt E…I will post a couple pictures you took soon. Your work was not in vain!)

Kauri grove in Cornwall Park/One Tree Hill

Drinking at The Patriot in Devonport.

Devonport is a waterside enclave on Auckland's North Shore. The small, rather posh community is home to at least five book stores, including this one in the ferry terminal.

Sunny, the pet that currently flops in our flat.