The odds were never real good for Noah. His was born with a underdeveloped heart, lungs and kidneys. One day vitals were good. Others, not. If he was able to stabilize, he would have been flown to Stanford where one of the nations top neonatal-cardiologists wanted their shot at saving his life.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Ten days after his birth, Noah Timothy White was taken off life support and passed away in the arms of his parents, Andrea and Brian.
The plight of Noah White was related to me by my friend Debbie Phares’ Facebook feed. It was refreshing to see such a story posted as someone’s status update, rather than the normally pathetic updates of “Can’t wait for Glee” or “Can’t find my keys”.
The wondrous tools of social media allow us to know what’s going on with almost anyone in the world. We can share where were are, what we’re doing there, and whom we’re doing it with. With a few keystrokes, we post pictures and zap our opinions. We keep tabs on our high school crushes, just to make us feel better that we ended up better than they did.
Everyone loves a soapbox (raises hand), and we use it for everything. We blatantly tell about our miserable days at work “Dis Job suxxxx!” or covertly imbed their feelings in updates that make no real sense to anyone but the writer “I wish the monkeys would just cry on their rocket ships at BevMo”.
We’ve crossed into a weird place. We’re sharing, but not really saying anything. Tweets and status updates tell me what’s going on, but they mainly fail in strengthening our connection.
What’s the last tweet that made you cry? Made you angry? Genuinely laugh. Has a status update made you rethink your purpose in life or enlightened you?
For all its wonders, social media, and the internet, isn’t where we really learn and engage in truthful conversations with each other. Friendships and relationships are formed in bars, coffee shops, bedrooms and ballparks. Our innermost secrets are revealed to those who we trust. That connection doesn’t happen on screen. It can’t happen in 140 characters. More like 140 hours.
I never knew Noah White. I’ll probably never meet his parents. But, Noah’s tale moved me in a way that I didn’t know social media could. I’d like to think that more stories, heroic or tragic, will stir us to engage face-to-face, rather than post-to-post.
“Followers” ? Whatever. I need to rack up “ People I’ve Met”.
I’m sure many of you ask yourselves “Why the hell would someone want to work in advertising”? Contrary to rumor, we are not diabolical fiends, praying on consumers faults and manipulating them into purchasing things that they don’t need. Pop culture paints us as sex-hungry womanizers, who drink three martinis and spout off brilliant taglines in our everyday conversation.
Hmm. Well, most of those aren’t true.
While it’s easy to knock the advertising industry, there must be something appealing about it, otherwise, why do young professionals flock to ad schools across the country in order to learn the business? Why do those same youngsters take low or non-paying internships at prestigious firms only to spend their time cleaning out the supply closet instead of learning practical skills?
Getting hired by an ad agency is one part talent, two part right-place, right time. Then you need to learn how to survive in an ad agency, a task that I’m yet to find a manual about. There is no guided tour. I never had an Obi-Wan mentor to provide me wisdom until he/she was struck down by Lord Vader (or a Senior Marketing Director. Both are pure evil).
When our Jr. Art Director asked me to fill out a questioner for an ad copywriting class, I happily obliged. It was the first time I’d ever been asked to provide career advice of any kind. It also allowed me to define how I approached my work, beyond “writing” or “starting at the page”.
I figured that you, dear reader, might find the questions and answers I provided interesting. If anything, you’ll get insight into my ticks and oddities of an advertising professional (worth the price of admission). Yet, understand that your free-range Copywriter or Associate Creative Director isn’t insane, evil or even manic-depressant. No, we’re just people talented in the ways of pictures and words. Sometimes, it’s therapeutic to dive into the hows and whys of our craft.
Self reflecting on ourselves is good. It reminds us why the hell we work in advertising.
Where and/how did you learn your craft?
I didn’t study advertising or went to portfolio school. I graduated with a degree in film, then set of to Hollywood for fame and fortune. I spent a few years working in television animation, but wasn’t doing anything creative. I’ve always been good at creative writing, so when I moved to Texas I started learning about the craft of copywriting, which is a discipline that’s different that just being able to write creatively. From there, I got a job writing on-hold messages, which I used to springboard to a small agency, and eventually led to me to my current medium sized agency. It’s nice. They pay me to write. Supposedly, everyone likes me too. I think that’s due to the M&M’s I keep on my desk.
But, make no mistake, I’m still learning my craft. You’re always learning, and seeking knowledge.
Who are some current copywriters you admire?
My initial introduction to copywriting was by reading Luke Sullivan’s “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” book. But, unlike my favorite scriptwriters or baseball players, I can’t really ramble off names of favorite copywriters. We’re writers, not rock stars. There’s a certain autonomy to our work. That said, I admire every copywriter’s work. It’s not easy creating something at grabs our attention, makes us laugh or moves us to buy something.
Who are some of the hall-of-famers you admire? Any historic ad campaigns that have great writing that should be aspired to?
Hall-of-famers? Sure. Wayne Gretzky. Ted Williams. Larry Bird. I can’t say I look up to Burnett, Ogilvy and those guys. I’m not an advertising historian. As for historic or memorable campaigns with great writing, I think that’s hard to answer. Some of the most memorable ads have very little V/O or copy. Apple’s “1984” or “Think Different” spots. The old Nynex ads, Mini Cooper, Maxell. For me, it’s more about the “great idea” than the “great writing”. You find the great writing when you find that awesome idea.
What’s the greatest thing you do to help yourself come up with ideas? Any technique that everyone else finds odd, but works for you?
Advertising is an immensely collaborative environment. I enjoy working with a bunch of people to brainstorm ideas. That said, I’m a very introverted worker. I like taking the information that’s passed around and playing with my Ticonderoga #2 and notepad or computer. I’m big into isolating myself to think. I’m not anti-social, but I like being alone with my thoughts for a while. Lunch break walks, long commute, sitting in the bathroom. Just getting away from the blinking cursor or notepad is helpful. I like having a well thought out idea to throw around rather than a rambling “ok…what if it was” notion.
How do you “edit” your work?
I’m not sure I have a process of “editing” myself. For me, it’s more of “does this copy have the correct voice and tone of what I’m trying to say?” If it doesn’t, then I tweak until I think it sounds right. I’m a big fan of letting other people read my copy. It’s not that they’re editing for me, but that’s how I gage message clarity. I think of everything I present to other agency people as a first draft. Does this make sense? How can we tweak the message? It’s way more difficult to edit an idea than tweak copy.
What’s your favorite piece of copy you have ever written?
My favorite pieces of copy are the cover letters and thank you notes that have resulted in my employment. I also wrote a spec radio ad for an R.E.I-like store where it sounded like the people were talking about a sex shop. Clearly, I have issues.
Can you share any advice for me and other aspiring copywriters?
Be a good writer, not just a copywriter. Writers write, even when they’re not at work. Write a blog, novel, screenplay, or weird “Twilight” fan fiction if that’s what you’re into. It will teach you so much about word choice, tone, and clarity. Also, have a life outside of advertising. Be passionate about something other than your job. You’ll realize that being a well rounded, multi-dimensional person lets you tap into truths and emotions that add a richness to your work. That said, your “job” doesn’t define who you are, your ability to write does.
Also, invest heavily in a jar or dish of candy for your desk. People think twice about ticking off the “candy jar guy”.
I’m beginning to re-think our weekend Yard Sale strategy.
The Craigslist posting is up. The neon green (can’t miss it from outer space) poster boards are ready, as are the numerous objects that once held a special place in our hearts, yet are now ready to be sold at a fraction of what we paid. The wife and I are prepared for our 5-hour (7am to 2pm, no early birds, please) nostalgia sale. Come strangers, rummage thru that which we wish to vanquish.
As the sale draws near, I’m beginning to think we should let people into the house and allow them to make offers on anything that catches their eye. Everything is going to end up in the sale anyway…why fight the inevitable.
It’s weird how we consider ourselves “owners”. I own a car. I own a house. I own a desk. Ownership implies that we hold onto things for an indefinite period of time. Yet, every few years we find ourselves upgrading our cars, televisions, iPods and appliances. I understand that innovation drives commerce. Mp3s are a hell of a lot more convenient than dragging around a box full of old 45s.
The curse of children is that they grow so fast that clothes, shoes and toys have a small shelf life. But we can’t help but be sentimental towards objects. I don’t want to see the Baby Einstein Miss Caterpillar out on the sale pile. Yet, with Christmas right around the corner, I know that a whole new influx of new toys will be arriving. The irony is that these new playthings will also face the same fate as Miss Caterpillar…doomed to make the inevitable trip from the living room to the garage, to the sale pile. It’s like “The Green Mile” trip for stuff. Nothing returns to the house once it disappears into the garage. Ever.
Growing children needs aside, I try to be better about the crap I buy. I’ve set a personal mandate to not buy something unless I’ll use everyday, or could help us bring in more income (or it prevents me from showing up to work naked). DVD and music spending has been slashed. So long to $45 Disney coffee table books that I’ll only read once. Clothing and accessories are rare. McFarlane Sports figures are history.
That said, I’m eying my home office Wal Mart $150 cheap o desk for replacement. It was built for a desktop computer and monitor, complete with keyboard tray, shelves storage and very little work space. Six months after buying it, my computer monitor died. I switched over to a laptop, which freed me from the desk. The problem is that I can’t write from a chair or couch. I need sit up, rest elbows and type away. I NEED to write at a desk. Ergonomically, my office desk is uncomfortable. The kitchen table soon became my office desk.
Sara and I were at opposite ends of the computing spectrum. She was desktop bound, yet comfortably content to compute from the couch. I had the freedom to compute on the can, yet needed a desk. My home office is cozy and comfy in a man-child decorating sort of way. With Sara stuck at the desktop, I was a nomad with a laptop.
Now that Sara has moved from desktop to MacBook, I can finally reclaim my extremely uncomfortable desk. Seeing as my only talent is writing, I can semi-justify getting a new desk unto which I could practice my craft.
My search for a new, comfortable yet stylish desk led me to West Elm, where I found a nice looking Sawhorse workbench desk that sports an equally extravagant price tag of $549. Expensive, but Sara and I have gone through cheap desks and bookcases as if they were toilet paper. Paying a bit more for something of quality that will, ideally last for a long time seems like a good idea. Alas, the major sticking point is said $549.
For the past year, I’ve earmarked a bunch of collectibles and stuff that I’d like to sell on eBay. Knowing that people pay $45 for old issues of Tiger Beat, I’m confident that somebody might find my collectible baseballs and GI Joe comics worth bidding on. Even if everything I have earmarked sold, I don’t think it would reach the $549 for the desk. This leads me to consider selling some of my prized possessions that I have traveled with me across the country. My childhood toys that take me back to a place a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
My vintage Star Wars toys.
For years, I’ve held onto my prized childhood possessions, in the hopes that I’d be able to properly display them. Since they were packed up in New Hampshire, they’ve sat in two large boxes. They have waited in storage sheds and garages, waiting until that day when they’d take their rightful place on a shelf or encased in glass. Nothing less than an act of Congress would make me consider jettisoning them.
So, they sit there. In the garage. Amongst the other stuff we need to get rid of. On equal level as the lawn mower, Christmas decorations and bulk packages of toilet paper. The Christmas decorations get more house time. Luke, Leia and the AT-AT Walker sit stuffed away, holding the exact same value as tiny pairs of socks and outfits in which my first child wore.
Apparently, sentiment means nothing as the days go by. Times change. The dark side isn’t so dark anymore.
A 20% off sale, brings the desk down to $439, a much more attainable number. I might be able to clear that if eBay hounds are interested in Disney sericels and Hard Rock Café jean jackets. I’d sell all my baseball cards for $50 if people still bought baseball cards. I might not need to sell my Star Wars stuff. Yet I’m a fool to keep thinking they’re valuable hand-me-downs that I’m just “care taking” for Casey and Kieran. My sons will never find the same sentiment in them as I did.
We sell our sentiments for pennies on the dollar at yard sales. Yet, for the misfit goods, it’s a second act. One mans trash is another mans treasure. Perhaps this is the best moment for getting rid of my Star Wars trinkets. Indirectly, a desk will help me provide for my family more than those toys ever will. I’ll always have the memories, the fun of reenacting my favorite scenes those toys.
A quick look on eBay confirms that many people are detached themselves from their Star Wars collections. Yet, there seem to be very few bids on those collections that are out there.
Perhaps memories are the only things we “own”. Everything else seems virtually worthless.
Casey has become a fan of playing hide and seek.
We play the game on the 2nd floor of our home, consisting of 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a walk in closet and two in-room closets overflowing with junk. Due to the lack of creative hiding spots, we hide behind a door, beneath the covers, in the tub or in the closet. More like “Hide and Check The Same Four Places”.
Still, it’s a blast to be crammed into a tiny closet with a clothing rack jamming into my back while as I hear Casey methodically search the same places. He happily calls out “Dayh-dee”for me as he goes room-to-room searching for my whereabouts. When he finds me, he belts out “Find You”, and then goes back to resetting for the next game.
The more we play, the more I realized that Casey’s thrill was the seeking, not the finding. Discovery was more important than reward. It was something that I took to heart. Kids love to find and move. Adults love to stand still and keep status quo. I had stopped “seeking” things in my life.
Think about it. When was the last time you tried a new restaurant? Out of the 500 channels, have you ever plopped down and flipped on a random network? Do you read the same authors? Buy the movie you saw in the theater? Have we turned into hiders? People who go to the same places and hope nothing gets us out of our comfort zone?
Parents walk a fine line between responsible and self centered. We want to raise our kids, play with them and provide, yet we want our 8-hour work days be filled with purpose and meaning, and be able to watch “Lost” without interruption. We can’t lose our jobs, wreck the car, backpack thru Europe for a month, or overspend on anything. Tall coffee, please. Grande is too rich for my blood.
Despite the worries of financial ruin, my kids do show me what it’s like to discover. To try things out. To question. To throw down perceptions and go after things. Getting hurt is the only way we really learn.
I find myself starting to seek again. Questioning the work I’m doing. Wondering what else there is out there. Realizing I’ve been very one-dimensional. I’ve got a degree in filmmaking. What can I DO with that suppressed knowledge? Is the ad game the best use of my writing skills? Should I write a novel? A screenplay? What interested be back in the day and why did I stop pursuing it?
Odd what an innocent game can teach us about ourselves. Time for me to start peeking behind closet doors and shower curtains.
What about you? Looked under the bed recently?
Stop hiding. Start seeking.
As a former theme-park worker, you’d think that the State Fair of Texas would be a no-brainer. And, after hearing of the park’s iconic Big Tex when I worked on “King of the Hill”, I was intrigued by the possibilities in Dallas. Growing up, fairs weren’t much of a Brown family destination. We were more your theme-park family, although we did attend the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville (the one with the Sunsphere, for you “Simpsons” geeks).
As Sara’s 35th birthday grew closer, we decided that a trip to Dallas to see Mary Poppins would be the perfect gift, as well as a needed break from the kids. The Theater at Fair Park is, ironically, conveniently located on the fairgrounds, so we’d be treated to musical theater and time at the fair. I snagged tickets 6 rows from the stage (goodbye college for Casey) and booked a room. We were set. Nothing could damper the mood, not even if one of the biggest college football games of the year took place on the same day.
Neither the wife or I are college football fans. We didn’t go to big universities with NCAA athletic programs. To suddenly start rooting for a team we have no vested interest in is akin to rooting for someone else’s kid in Babe Ruth league. And yet, we found ourselves attending the Texas State Fair the same day 96,009 Longhorn and Sooners fans would be squeezing into the Cotton Bowl fun.
Undaunted, we arrived in Downtown Dallas around 10:45am, a good 15 minutes before game time. Assuming that most people would be at the game, we found ourselves waiting for the brand spankin’ new DART rail Green line along with those 96,009 running really late fans. With the DART system being completely overwhelmed, our two mile journey from downtown to the Fair took almost 90 minutes.
Many adjectives spring to mind when one things of the Texas State Fair. Obese is one. Fried is the other. Not that there were large amounts of fat people, but obese in the sense of excessive. It’s like they complied every imaginable food, carnival game, carnival ride, merchandising booth… and weren’t satisfied. Even though it’s outdoors, there’s no room to breath. I’m not claustrophobic, but I was at the fair.
The other adjective, fried, is what the fair is known for. Every possible delicacy is lightly battered, dipped in hot oil, and offered up for public consumption. You had fried Oreos, fried Twinkies, fried moon pies, fried pecan pie, fried chicken, fried cheesecake, deep fried peaches & cream, fried peanut butter cups, and the mother of them all.. fried butter. Just hearing those two words in the same sentence makes me conjure up visions of Paula Dean happily tossing packages of Land O Lakes into giant vats of oil.
I’m not the healthiest eater in the world, but I kept my batter intake to a mere corn dog. Sara opted to try the fried pecan pie, which garnered mixed reviews. I guess going to the State Fair and not eating something fried is like going to Legal’s Sea Food and ordering chicken. My doctor and my arteries would be proud of me.
After soaking in the atmosphere, we headed over to the Music Hall to our 2:00 “Mary Poppins”. The Music Hall gets my vote as the Worst Possible Theater I’ve Ever Been To. A gorgeous feat of architecture on the outside, the lobby and hall itself are tragically designed in “1972 Renovation” . The massive hall is a black box with seats. No design, no architecture. My garage has more ambiance. The orchestra bit rivals only the Grand Canyon when it comes to width. While we were 6 rows from the stage, the performers seemed like they were in Ft. Worth.
Thankfully, nothing mattered when the show started. “Mary Poppins” was (using the cheap line) practically perfect. It’s not a scene-by-scene recreation of the movie. On the contrary, many of the memorable scenes or settings from the film (Penguin waiters, Horse racing in the park, tea parties on the ceiling) are gone. The musical merges the original novels with the notable songs in a way that, frankly, comes off better than the movie in many ways. The roles of George and Winifred Banks are fully fleshed out. The Banks children are brats instead of victims of circumstances. Bert becomes the narrator, not just the comic relief. The familiarity is there, and it’s a great show.
Major props to the choreographer on two particular numbers. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is a dizzying display of “handy” work (those who have seen it know). “Step In Time” is also an test to synchronizing yet differentiating 25 performers on stage in a large number. It really worked. By far my favorite number was “Feed the Birds”. It got really cold in the theater during this performance. It’s the only reason why I’d become overwhelmed with goosebumps. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
The only blemish on the performance was, sadly, the audience. I’m used to seeing shows in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, where people make an effort to dress up at the theater. In Dallas, dressing up means Tony Romo jersey (worn by a woman) or Velour track suit. The young couple sitting next to us thought it appropriate to tweet during the performance. If Sara had felt better, I think that iPhone would have been tossed into the orchestra pit. And finally, the curious case of the people who exited the performance before the curtain call. Between the ugly theater and ugly audience, future performances at the Music Hall are under review. If we see “Shrek: The Musical”, we’ll see a night performance on a day OTHER than the Red River Shootout.
Remember those 96,009 people that rode with us TO the fair? Well, they all wanted to ride AWAY from the fair at the same time we did. Hoping that the line would die down, we decided to wander the midway. This was your carnival on steroids featuring all your favorite rides, complete with toothless Carnies. Remember the Hurl-O-Whirl, Tilt-And-Puke, Vomit Comet, Swinging Barf Machine, Death Wheel and Let’s Just Drop You 900 Feet Swings? They’re all at the fair. The impossible to win games? Yep. Sara didn’t let me see the 1500 Year Old Alligator. Bitch.
When we returned to the DART station, we were faced with a dilemma: Wait in a 90 minutes line for a train, or walk 2 miles back to the car. Even though she’d been fighting a cough and virus for the past week, Sara never complained once during that walk back to downtown. Keep the extra $8 DART and buy more trains.
In all, the State Fair of Texas wasn’t horrific. As we wallowed with the burnt orange and maroon-red masses, we commented that this might be a fun place to take the boys when they’re older. It’s something you need to see to fully understand.
To sum up, it was a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious weekend. Yes, I went there.
If you’re going to spend time with your kids, you might as well dump hundreds of gallons of water on them.
Rare is the day that each member of the Brown clan is gathered around the same table or piled into the Civic. Dinner is (usually) over by the time I get home from work. I drop off at the day care. Sara picks up. I’ll take Casey to the lake while Sara runs to the grocery store with Kieran. Movie going takes place in “Morning Ralph. Morning Sam” type-shifts. She hits the 11:15 am show, while I hit a 9:30 pm showing. Divide and conquer.
It’s not that we don’t want to spend time as a family. It’s just that the activities we do together are, as they say back in the old country: Lame. I pitied the poor furniture salesmen who tried to up-sell us on couches as Casey threw fits about not being able to perform his Cirque du Soleil-like routines on display models (he has an exclusive performance at “O” at the Bellagio through October). Dinners out can be delightfully tolerable or an act of public torture. I should feel bad about shoving my iPhone in my son’s face so he can watch “Wall-E” for the millionth time while I shove my five alarm fire burger in my mouth. I don’t.
As you can see, getting the four of us together takes an act of congress. Or a theme park.
Central Texas isn’t known for its plethora of amusement parks. Longhorns, football stadiums and WalMarts, sure. But for those of us weaned on $5 churros and stroller parking, we have Six Flags and Sea World. Seeing most members of our party wouldn’t opt for Goliath and other amusements (damn height limits), Sea World is our park of choice.
Unless you live inside the Magic Kingdom, then your kids don’t get exposed to the craziness of roller coasters or gigantic costumed characters. It could be the coolest thing they’ve ever seen, or something that gives credence to their wild monsters in the closet tales. All you can do is strap them in and see how their diaper looks afterwards.
For Casey, it was time to prove he’s Evil Knievel in pull-ups.
I vividly remember the time my parents had to drag me, literally, onto Big Thunder Mountain. Not sure if it was my first roller coaster, but there’s something about being terrified that sticks with you. While the Shamu Express is no Space Mountain, Casey was more than happy to take on his first coaster. I’m guessing he didn’t quite know how to feel on the ride, since he neither cried nor laughed. Guessing it was that fun sort of terror you feel when eating a McRib sandwich or watching “Clean Sweep”. On the other hand, the cargo nets were extremely terrifying. For his mom. Keep in mind that Casey gets intimidated crawling around those playground contraptions at fast food joints. You can imagine the terror in Sara’s face as her spunky three year old climbed a 40 foot cargo net, then proceeded to crawl around the rickety and dangling web of crawl tubes. Not once did he stop and cry for dad to climb up and get him. It’s one thing to be headstrong. It’s another to crawl around tiny spaces and battle 6 year-olds, all the while dangling above the concrete.
Amongst the dolphin shows and walking penguins, the part of Sea World the entire family is able to partake is the Lost Lagoon Waterpark. Granted, Sara and Kieran usually stay in the kiddie pool for the duration of our visit. Just the fact that all four of us can wade around the same pool qualifies as family time.
It’s fun to watch Kieran waddle walk through the pool, unsure of where he is or how he got there, like a UT student on 6th Street. Climbing on a fiberglass starfish or turtle seems to come naturally to him. Him and a wading pool are a perfect fit. The same can’t be said of his baggy swim trunks, however.
As it turns out, big brother is a bit too big for the kiddy pool. The wave pool seems too tame. So, on our past few trips Casey and I have spent our time at the Splash Zone, a three story fun house that serves one purpose: dump as much water on you as possible.
Splash Zone constantly pummels you with water from every direction. You walk thru water, dump water onto others and in general, soak yourself more than humanly possible. As Casey climbs up and down the stairs in his bright orange life jacket, you can see his tiny brain taking in the absurdity of it all. He seems to get the harmless fun of being drenched, of spilling water onto the unknowing passersby.
The joy of Sea World is that it’s one of the few things that my boy and I can enjoy together. He can’t sit though nine innings of baseball like I can. He doesn’t quite get video games. Keep in mind that Casey and I share the “Must Be Doing Something This Very Minute” disease. Many people consider watching TV, typing on the laptop and listening to their iPod at the same time “multitasking”. I call this “a slow evening”. In many ways, the fact we can spend a few hours in the water together is a huge milestone. Thanks to Sea World, the four of us are able to spend a few quality hours together.
Yes, we could just set up the sprinkler in the backyard and save the gas money and admission fees. Sometimes you need to get away from the house.
It’s instant fun. Just add water.
Ollie picked me. I didn’t pick him.
When I entered the Glendale Animal Shelter back in 1999, I didn’t expect a cat to leap up and announce that he was coming home with me. But when the tiny black cat climbed the cage and scratched at me with his small claws, there wasn’t much left to say.
Named after the legendary animator Ollie Johnston, Ollie was my very first “living on my own” companion. Heck, there was no way I could keep a plant alive. A cat was much easier. He didn’t need much attention, just food, the occasional belly rub and litter cleaning. It was just the two of us living the bachelor life in a tiny Glendale apartment.
Ollie’s favorite companion soon became a stuffed seal, dubbed “Mr. Seal”. There was no logic as to why Ollie chose Mr. Seal as his toy. You could hear him at absurd hours of the night howling as he carried the stuffed toy around the apartment. Perhaps it was a lion/cub thing.
His other favorite companion was my ankles. Or hair. Sometimes it was my whole leg. The feistiness that attracted me to him in our first meeting stuck around. Ollie was even the first and thus far only cat I’ve flown with. He accompanied me to Boston one year, soaking in the New England atmosphere. I guess being placed in a bag and shoved under a seat with an allotment of 3.5 feet of space can be too much for a cat.
The one thing Ollie got plenty of was food. Early in the morning or late at night, the cat would eat and eat and eat. I joked at calling him “Rock” because he was so solid. If he leaped into a sliding glass door, he’d probably shatter it.
Over time, other friends arrived for Ollie to play with. Samantha, Sara, Tigger and eventually the boys. Each one was a friend and a fighting companion. The throw downs between Ollie and Tigger are stuff of WWE legend.
We’re not really sure when Ollie started losing weight. With two kids and careers to manage, checking on the cats doesn’t become second nature. But when he stopped using the litter box and stopped eating, we knew something was wrong.
A trip to the vet’s office confirmed that Ollie was suffering from kidney failure. There were more extensive (and expensive) procedures that we could try, but they wouldn’t “cure” him. He would die from this.
We took the weekend to think about it. We started giving him an IV along with dietary food, which he kind of liked, but the though of losing our cat loomed over us. Friday night we made the decision to put him down on Monday. We’d give him a peaceful weekend at home before heading off to the vet.
But then a strange thing happened. He bit us. There was spunk, vigor, energy. You couldn’t tell that this cat was sick. A blood test revealed that, by normal readings, this cat shouldn’t be alive, much less be this active. So Ollie stuck around a few weeks longer. He wasn’t ready to leave.
Every morning and night over the past month I held Ollie down as Sara shot an IV into his back for fluids. It was hard for us to put a cat down who was so full of life. Secretly, we hoped that Ollie would fall asleep one night and never wake up. He wasn’t suffering. We were suffering because we’d have to make the tough decision, albeit the right one, to end Ollie’s life.
As the weeks went by, Ollie’s conditioned worsened. He stopped eating. He stopped fighting us with the IV needle. As you ran your hand over his back, all your could feel was bones. Samantha and Ollie knew what was going on. So did we. And on Saturday, June 6th, I brought Ollie to the local animal hospital.
It’s a strange thing to put an animal down. You’re talking a creature’s life into your hands. As we waited in the exam room, he rubbed up against me and tried to leap down to the floor, unaware he had mere minutes left to live. The vet came in and administered the shot that would put him to sleep. Slowly, he became less active. The rubbing and wandering stopped. He finally laid down, placed his head into my palm and drifted off to sleep.
There was no way that I’d consider just ditching my cat and heading off. No animal deserves that. I watched the vet insert the injection into his leg and waited for the end. There was no gasp. No movie-like theatrical last breath. I didn’t even notice his breathing stop. In no less than thirty seconds, he was gone. The vet checked for a heartbeat and confirmed there was none. Shorty after 11am, my cat was dead.
I was welcome to stay with him for as long as I needed. I had really said goodbye to him weeks earlier when we first thought of putting him down. I kissed my cat on the head, rubbed him for the final time and left.
There’s no burial or jar of ashes for Ollie. Just a picture featuring him enjoying the view from the porch back at my old home in New Hampshire. Once we find a spot, we’ll place Mr. Seal, as well as his collar and tag by that frame. It’s quiet not hearing him howl at night. Tigger and Samatha stick closer to us now, having realized that their playmate and friend is gone for good.
I won’t say Ollie’s in a “better place”, because the best place for him was here, with people that loved him. Of course, if where ever he is feeds him, he’ll be OK. RIP Ollie.
I thought I was smart enough to upload my Wordpress Blog without backing anything up.
So, here we are. Robyontheweb the Tumblr version. Build from the ground up.