Thursday, December 6, 2018

The King

Alex died. My 16-year-old cat passed away.

I know he was old. But he was my baby too.

He came into my life like a whirlwind. And I knew he was on his way. I told a friend that I was meeting some guy that day, I was sure of it. My intuition told me. And there he was that night, a kitten full of life, trying to get a leaf from under an abandoned building. He was homeless, dumped. He was my guy. He wasn’t exactly what I’d expected earlier that day, but he was absolutely the right guy to show up.

Alex was not fond of other cats, liked some dogs, and loved people. He usually (not always) tolerated my other cat Annie - the true ruler of the home, which bugged him.  But when Annie became sick a few years ago, he became kind.  When she passed away, he grieved (kept cleaning himself and then coughing up hairballs). It turned out, she was his friend and he was just so terribly sad she was gone.

He had this way of walking with his tail held high. He sure thinks a lot of himself, said one friend who saw him. It’s just how he walks, I explained. It was impressive, though - as if he knew he was all that.

He slowed down as he aged, became an indoor kitty and left the outdoor frolicking behind (I used to say he brought new meaning to the term “cat about”). But he still had the ornery in him. Just this last summer, he got out to go after a little neighbor dog - head first, which is how he had always fought - and the nearby road workers marveled. “I’ve never seen a cat do something like that,” one guy said, over and over. I had - seen it before, that is. I just hadn’t realized that he still had it in him.

Alex was turning a corner before he passed. It was a seizure that came - which makes sense, that’s about the only thing that could take him down - no slow illness was going to do it... I think we all can turn a corner and then slam into a wall. That’s how it happened for Alex. I sobbed to let him go, but knew absolutely that I had to let him go, and put him to sleep.

The day before, I decided to take him outside to a nature center nearby.  Oh, how he loved it! He sniffed at the air and smelled the flowers. He greeted people who walked past. It made him hungry, and he ate with enthusiasm for the first time in a couple weeks. I was hopeful - that corner looked to be turned.  Then the next day came and the grand mal seizure took over.

Alex was the kind of cat who generated lots of stories. There’s that time he got lost - the time he tried to jump on my head from the roof - the time he wore a cone because a neighbor cat got the better of him in a cat fight (that Alex started) - the time he stood at my car window meowing, telling me to get off the phone and get out of the car already - the time he made my neighbor get up from the chair on my neighbor’s own porch because that’s where he (Alex) liked to nap - the stories do go on and on.

But what I remember, and what I miss, is my sweet Alex, handsome boy, soft as a plush toy, always ready for what’s next. We all should live life with such tenacity and verve.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Baseball Story, and LIIFE

Very excited to announce that my baseball script "Until the End of the Ninth" (an adaptation of my novel by the same name) was the runner-up in the screenwriting competition at the Long Island Int'l Film Expo - LIIFE!   I particularly love the acronym, and its parallel to the baseball story - which is about death, but life too.

I went to Bellmore, New York - on Long Island - for a weekend of events.  What a fantastic group, and festival.  I was really impressed.  I appreciated the opportunity that they gave me to talk about the baseball script, too.  All in all, it was a fun and productive trip.

"Until the End of the Ninth" is inspired by the true story of the 1946 Spokane Indians' minor league baseball team that died in a bus crash midway through that season.  Nine of the 16 men on the bus died. Eight of the nine who died had served in World War II.  It is the worst ever professional sports accident in U.S. history.  They died as a team - 9 - the number of players on the field at a time.  It was a terrible tragedy and one that moved me greatly when I learned of it.  I wanted to imagine that their spirits could have lived on, so I wrote a novel (and screenplay) as if they did.  It is heartwarming to have LIIFE acknowledge the work but, more importantly, the story of these 1946 men.