Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Letter to President-Elect Trump

Princess Clementine
84E Parkway Drive
Freehold, NJ 07728

December 6, 2016

President-Elect Donald Trump
725 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Dear President-Elect Trump,

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself.  I am Clementine, the Princess of Quite A Lot.  I am a cat, and strongly believe that the Oval Office needs a domestic feline to help with your presidency.  The health benefits of interaction with cats are well known, both physically and mentally.  Petting a cat can lower blood pressure, and the mere presence of a cat can often diffuse a tense situation simply by the utterance of  “oh, look at what the cat is doing”.   While dogs can provide some of the same health benefits, their constant need for attention might prove too distracting in many situations I am sure you will encounter as president.

I do not know if you have a family cat that you intend to bring to Washington with you, but if you do not, I strongly encourage you to visit the local animal shelter to find yourself a good companion cat.  You probably shouldn’t consider a kitten, as the First Cat will need to have a certain amount of personal restraint.  A mature cat, at least two or three years old should be sufficient.  Shelter staff should be able to assist you with finding the right fit – a cat who is neither needy or standoffish. 
Should you require any advice, I am available to provide any wisdom I may have in this area.  I wish you the best of luck with your presidency.  

Warm regards,


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

An American Cat Votes

It was finally Election Day.  It couldn’t have come soon enough for Clementine.  Over the past several months the news had become more and more focused on one issue – who would the humans elect as their new president.  Clem was absolutely disgusted at the way some humans behaved towards each other.  Name calling, muck raking, complete fabrication of wrongdoing - and that was just the candidates.  The yarn lady loved listening to her morning news, and in other times Clem listened along.  Since late summer Clem just buried her head in the covers when she heard the sound of the radio.  And Facebook?  Well, if the yarn lady hadn’t blocked all those third party news sites from her newsfeed it probably would be even worse than it was right now.  

Clem had tried her hardest to figure out which candidate would be the best from the animal point of view, but by the time the primaries were over her best candidate was gone. Of the two remaining major party candidates, Donald Trump had no legislative record, so she had no idea of how he would exercise his leadership for the benefit or detriment of cats and other animals. Her efforts to elect a First Cat had also come to naught, as it was impossible to introduce a new national office.  She’d nearly decided to run for president herself until she’d found out that there was some silly requirement for the office holder to be a human person.  After calming down, she’d realized that she never could leave her beloved yarn lady, so even if she had been successful, she would have turned down the job.  In the words of the immortal Pat Paulsen, "I will not run if nominated, and if elected I will not serve."  Who knows, if she’d run someone might uncover some dirt in her own past, perhaps that time she’d dug up the neighbor’s tomato planter.  She’d thought it was a good place for an outside litter box, but it turns out humans don’t like it when you poop on their tomato seedlings. 

The yarn lady had gone out early in the day to vote and returned quite quickly.  It turns out that her little development has its own polling place, and as she gigglingly told Clem and Zeke, at 58 she was one of the youngest people there.  She settled down to read, and since the weather was so nice, she opened the windows in the kitchen and living room to get a cross breeze.  

Several months ago Clem had discovered a loose corner of the screen in the living room window, but had decided not to point it out in case she ever wanted to get out undetected.  She sat in the window enjoying the breeze off the lake and wondered about the election day process.  Rudy had filled her in on the intricacies of voting several years ago.  It’s like fishing.  People cast their ballots, just like fisherman cast their lines to catch fish.  The idea was to hit the candidate you wanted, or since everyone in the country was doing it at the same time, hit the candidate’s name.  There was a machine that displayed the names as targets, and until you pushed a special button you could try and cast as many times as you wanted until you got it right.  Once the voter was sure that all the votes were cast correctly, he or she pushed the button and voting was over.  Soon after she’d come to live with the yarn lady she’d discovered one of the neighbors liked to fish in the lake, sometimes for hours at a time.  He’d cast his line over and over.  If he happened to catch a fish, he’d take it off the hook and throw it back.  It seemed like a total waste of time to Clem.  He should have eaten those fish, or at least given them to Clem to eat.  She liked fish. 

It might be interesting to watch the humans cast their votes.  Perhaps if she asked nicely, she might even be allowed to cast a few herself.  She didn’t really expect that the humans would push the special button after her votes were cast, but it would be fun just to try.  Plus she was interested to find out what type of bait they used for the election process.  She hoped it wouldn’t be worms as she didn’t much like worms.  She was partial to tiny bait fish though, and after she’d cast a few votes perhaps they’d let her eat her fish.  

Clem fell asleep while thinking of eating bait fish, and awoke with vague memories of trying to maneuver a large lake trout to whack a computer monitor. It was longer than she was and in a state of advanced decomposition, coming apart as she picked it up between her paws.  She’d awoken suddenly when it had turned its head and said to her, “Why are you doing this to me?”  Ugh.  What a horrible dream.  She stood up and stretched to get the memory out of her brain.  Glancing at the clock, she saw it was nearly 3pm and decided that if she was going to vote she’d better get over to the polling place.  

The yarn lady was nowhere in sight, so Clem took a moment to let Zeke know what she was doing and nudged the damaged screen just enough to let her out.  It was a good thing she’d gone back to her slender size – a rotund kitty might not make it out.  She jumped down onto the ground next to a bush and considered her route.  The clubhouse where the voting was taking place was at the other end of the lake, so it would likely be best to just circle around it.  There was little cover for her, so it was not going to be a stealth mission.  She’d just saunter her way down the sidewalk as though she had every right to be there.  

It was a matter of mere minutes before she’d made it around the end of the lake.  She had encountered a grandmother supervising two toddlers and as soon as sticky hands reached out from squealing toddler bodies she’d made a run for it.  Clem made her way around the pool and shuffleboard courts and squeezed between some bushes so she could make her way to the front of the building undetected.  Happily, the front door was wide open, and Clem zoomed in once there was break in the flow of voters. 

Hugging the wall, she crept along behind the chairs set up in the room.  Most of the humans were heading to or coming from one of the corridors, so she headed in that direction.  As she again waited for a break in the flow of humans, she heard two women discuss how they were short of machines as one had broken down that morning.  They made tsk, tsk noises and cleared the hallway.  Clem made a run for it and skidded into the polling room.  There were dozens of people, some waiting in line at tables, others waiting to use what Clem assumed were the voting machines.  She positioned herself under an armchair to scope out the situation.  

She wouldn’t have to sign in, as she wasn’t a registered voter and even if she had been she didn’t have a last name.  She was royalty, and all she needed was her first name for the world to recognize and acknowledge her.  She looked at the people voting but all she could see was a person walking in front of a big video screen with curtains around the top part.  The curtains closed after the human entered and after some minutes the curtains opened again.  There were no fishing poles evident nor were there buckets of bait.  Perhaps Rudy had been mistaken?  This was boring, and there were so many people here there was no way she could get to one of those machines without being seen by a dozen people.  She watched for a few more minutes and decided to ditch the whole idea. 

The hallway was empty, so she walked back towards the front doors.  As she passed a room she glanced in and saw an unattended voting machine.  Perhaps this was the one that wasn’t working.  Well, she could at least check it out.  She carefully entered the room, checking to see if anyone was hiding in a corner.  No one.  The machine was sideways to her, and oddly, there was a chair where a human would have stood to cast their votes.  She jumped up on the chair and stood on her hind legs, front paws on the front of the machine.  

It looked fine to her.  There were rows and columns of names at the top, two sections at the bottom with lots of words and a small column of boxes to the right of the wordy boxes.  Clem looked around to see what she was supposed to cast to complete the voting process.  There were no fishing poles or even stones.  She recalled something in the Bible about casting stones, but then she remembered that one needed to be without sin to cast them.  Since humans seemed to think they all had done some sins, stones weren’t likely to be found.  Cats on the other hand, were born without sin, or even the ability to sin, so she would have grabbed some and hurled them at the machine.  

As she stretched to read the names at the top of the ballot her paw accidentally hit a small box next to one of the boxes full of words and the machine emitted a low beep sound. That surprised her so much she fell off the chair.  When she climbed back up she looked at the machine and there was an X in the box next to the word “Yes”.  Well, that was too easy.  She reached up and patted the box by the word “No” and an X appeared there and disappeared from the other box.  She was ready for the beep this time.  For a few minutes she stood on her hind legs, randomly swatting the screen until she’d hit boxes all over the face of the machine.  

Clem sat back and examined her efforts.  So, who had she cast votes for?  For president she’d whacked Gloria LaRiva, the Socialism and Liberation Party candidate.  Liberation was a good thing.  That was okay.  For House of Representatives she’d whacked Chris Smith, the Republican.  Jeffrey Cantor (D) for Sheriff, Rosemarie Peters (R) for Surrogate, Sue Fulton (D) for Freeholder, and Patience Nolan (Politician Without Politics) for Mayor were her other choices.  One row had no box checked, so Clem decided she’d try out the Personal Choice box.  When she swatted that one a keyboard popped up.  Who should be Councilman-at-Large?  Hmm.  She couldn’t be a councilman.  She was female.  Clementine carefully typed in Zeke’s name.  Since he didn’t have a last name she used the name of the human he’d been named after - Ezekiel Holman.  She hoped it didn’t matter that he’d been dead since 1874 or had lived in what was now Jackson, rather than Howell.  

She’d voted against casinos and for the realignment of money for the Transportation Trust Fund, and had Xs next to the names of various candidates for the Howell School Board.  Well, now it was time to see if the machine would allow her to finalize her vote.  She carefully put one paw on the Cast Vote button and pressed it.  The machine emitted a nasty buzz and the ballot was replaced with a screen that stated that the voting machine was offline, and that her vote had not been recorded.  It then said to report this to a voting official.  The curtains opened and she turned around and found herself face to face with a very surprised human.  

“Hey kitty.  This machine is out of order.  If you are a registered voter, and I kinda doubt you are, please go into the next room, sign in and vote there.”  He reached out to scratch her ears, and Clementine panicked.  She jumped off the chair and headed for the door at top speed.  She surprised a gaggle of old ladies in the hallway and streaked for the door, which happily was still open.  She ducked behind the bushes in front of the building and caught her breath before heading home.  

It was a beautiful autumn day, and Clementine admired the bright leaves on the trees as she made her way around the lake.   She picked up a particularly brilliant orange and red one by the stem as she stepped onto the sidewalk that bordered her end of the lake.  She waved the leaf around as she walked and then heard someone calling her name.  “Clementine – where are you?  Come on sweetie – I need to know you haven’t fallen in the lake!  Clementine….”  Oh, that wouldn’t do.  It was the yarn lady, and she was worried about her.  

Clem ran down the sidewalk and met the yarn lady, who looked very relieved to see her.  “Where have you been?  I saw the pushed-out screen and came out to look for you and couldn’t find you anywhere.  I was so afraid you’d found wormed your way through the fence to go chase the geese on the lake.”  Clem allowed herself to be picked up, still clinging to her leaf.  The yarn lady gently tugged it away from her, and looked at it.  “Did you come out to collect fall leaves? Well then let’s take this one inside with us.”

Ezekiel was waiting at the storm door, and was relieved to see Clem and the yarn lady.  They’d never been out the side of the house with the lake, and although she’d said she was going to vote, Zeke was afraid maybe someone had caught her and taken her to the cat pound.  As soon as they were all inside, Clem squirmed and the yarn lady put her down.  “Please Miss Clem – don’t ever go out that way again.  There are lots of people that walk along the lake, and I don’t know what I’d do if you were catnapped or the geese attacked you.  Stay here with us – we love you.”  

Clem licked the yarn lady’s hand in acknowledgement and settled in on the sofa, Zeke next to her.  It was time to share her adventure with him, and explain how he almost had become a Councilman-at-Large for the Township of Howell.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

And the candidates are...

Wednesday morning Clem awoke to a very bleary-eyed Zeke staring her in the face. Next to her was a pile of paper, each page toothmarked where Zeke had bitten into it to drag it up onto the couch. “This is all of them. I couldn't figure out how to make the database program run, so I put all the results into a spreadsheet. Name, contact info, ratings on all sorts of things.” Having said this, Zeke flopped onto his side and covered his eyes with his paws. “I think I'll sleep for the rest of the day. It took me all night to do this.”

Clementine was impressed. She didn't think he'd be able to type his name without misspelling it, much less develop a spreadsheet to record all the information. Leafing through the list, she noticed something odd, though. Many of the cats (and other animals) had an entry in a column titled “PC”, and it was the name of one of the presidential candidates, or occasionally another name. She looked over at Zeke, but he was sound asleep so she figured she'd check out some of the emails herself.

It was a great surprise to see that many of these cats were as partisan as some of the Yarn Lady's Facebook friends. They wanted to be the First Cat only if the candidate they preferred was elected. She shook her head and even laughed a bit at some of them. Didn't these cats realize that this was their opportunity to be of service to their country? They might even succeed in bringing peace to the Middle East, if only all the relevant parties would come to the White House and be charmed into understanding how much better it was to be kind and loving, rather than constantly being angry.

Ah, well. Maybe she needed to expand her search beyond the DC metropolitan area. Perhaps a cat from, say, Montana would be a better idea. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Looking for candidate to be First Cat

Clementine stretched luxuriously as she woke up late Monday morning. She'd had a lovely long sleep, disturbed only by Zeke's comings and goings. He'd been restless last night, which was unusual. Clem wandered into the living room, greeted the yarn lady and then visited the kitchen for a few mouthfuls of crunchy food. She settled onto the hassock and watched the yarn lady rush around finding the various things she needed for wherever she was going. Keys, phone, knitting of course, wallet, various pieces of paper, a book – at that point Clem closed her eyes. It was too painful. Humans needed way too much stuff. They should be more like cats. No accessories required.

Finally she was ready and she called out that she'd be back in a few hours. Clem waited a few moments to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything and then logged into her email. Wow, she had a lot of messages. And oddly enough they all had the subject 'Looking for candidate to be First Cat'. She opened the most recent and saw this:

Looking up at the ceiling, Clementine wondered if perhaps she'd gotten up in the night and posted something that might have resulted in all these emails. They appeared to have come from Craigslist, and yes, she did have a Craigslist account. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Ezekiel quietly slinking toward the hallway. She leapt over the arm of the chair and took off in pursuit of the furry miscreant. Cornered in the hallway by the closed bedroom door, Zeke began talking so fast she could barely understand him. “Well, you wanted to find cats to become candidates for First Cat, and I couldn't sleep last night, so I went on Craigslist and checked to see if we could post an ad there for cats to respond to. I don't have an account, so I used yours, and well, next thing I knew I'd created an ad and posted it. I didn't mean to post it, I was just going to make a draft of it and show it to you in the morning, but it looked so good that after I looked at the preview, I, well, kind of hit the post button.” Zeke bowed his head and braced for the head smack he knew was coming.

Nothing happened. Zeke looked up to find Clementine staring icily at him. “You know I don't like anyone using my accounts, and I don't even want to know how you got my password. But it's done now, and there are dozens of animals out there who've responded to the ad. It will be your job to go through each one and do an initial screening. Set up a database to record the name and contact information for each candidate, and make sure to attach any photos. You probably should also figure out a way to determine how well they meet the criteria you set out, and rate each applicant accordingly. I'll expect a summary with thumbnail photos by tomorrow morning, and every morning for as long as we continue to get responses. Oh, and come up with a standard reply or two for all our potential candidates. Thank you for applying and we'll be collecting information type of thing. There probably should be a second one for non-cats, saying that at this time we're not considering other species.”

Zeke sat there staring at Clementine. He wasn't as dumb as he looked, but he wasn't sure how one would set up a database. He barely knew what one was. But looking at Clem's face, he knew that there was no negotiating this issue. He might be bigger, he might be stronger, but both of them knew who was the top cat in the house, and it wasn't Zeke. He sighed and headed for the computer.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What every presidential candidate needs

Clementine logged onto Facebook and scrolled through her news feed. There were two new posts from Slinky Longfellow, a fellow cat and FB friend from Pennsylvania, a story from Charlene Butterbean, an internet celebrity cat, about her trip to the vet to have her teeth cleaned and dozens of reposts from her followers about presidential candidates. A few of those posts extolled the virtues of the poster's preferred candidate, but most of them were simply smear campaigns against a candidate the poster opposed.

Since Clementine had actually met all of the candidates she read the posts with a good deal of skepticism. No, Ted Cruz does not eat babies for breakfast. At least on the road, he eats McDonald's egg white breakfast sandwiches. And no, Hillary Clinton is not auditioning for The Voice next season whether or not she wins the election. She can't carry a tune to save her life. And again no, Donald Trump is not planning to build a wall around Washington DC. He's planning on building a wall the entire length of the US/Mexico border.

The one thing that was obvious from her time on the road meeting the candidates was that they were very stressed people. Ben Carson had been the most mellow of all of the candidates, and the only one to actually pick Clementine up and spend time scratching her head and feeling her purr. By the time he put her down, he was genuinely smiling.

The conclusion was obvious. The presidential candidates needed cats. She'd written to all of them to thank them for taking time to meet her, and had suggested to each of them that they add a cat to their campaign entourage. The responses she'd received were not positive. They ranged from explanations that staffers were allergic to cats to concerns about litter boxes and the ventilation system of their airplanes.

It was a bit disappointing that none of the candidates were interested in taking a cat on the road, but as Clementine thought more about the problem it occurred to her that the whoever won the election, his or her stress wasn't going to decrease once he/she entered the White House. It would increase. Congress would still likely be deadlocked, whichever party lost would be likely be petty and criticize every word out of the new president's mouth and the media would be hovering like vultures waiting for something to pounce on.

Clem knew from her interviews that none of the candidates had cats. A few had dogs, and likely those dogs would come to Washington, but that didn't preclude there being a First Cat. Not if was a cat who could jump onto the desk in the Oval Office when things got tense defuse the tension with purrs and headbutts. Not just any cat would do for that job. It had to be a cat with a strong purr, one that was a snuggler, but yet not too needy. Lots of cats would probably like to live in the White House. Heck, Clem would, except that it would mean leaving her beloved yarn lady.

The more she thought about it, the better the idea seemed. She talked it over with Zeke, and he agreed that it would be a cushy job, one that many cats would jump at. Clem giggled at that. Jump at. Cats would pounce at an opportunity like this. But how would something like that be decided? An ad on Craig's list? There would be no way the new president would be able to read through all the responses.

Then it hit her. There should be an election for the First Cat. Maybe she could even get it on the ballot for November. Oh, there was a lot of thinking to be done about this.