Episode Thirty Six: 9

IMG_20140712_014517Virtute stretched out in the warm sun. He languished for a moment before running full stop down the hall.  He slammed on the breaks making a quick 180 degree turn as his back feet slid along the vinyl nearly giving out.  It was that time again, the sign of the new year, not the Gregorian/Roman new year or the Lunar/Solar new year, but the new year that mattered most to us: spring training. Filled with hope and excitement, we spent the afternoon getting our creaky frozen muscles loose and chatting about the season ahead.

Virtute knows I’m an enthusiast of advanced baseball stats, what some people call sabermetrics, and he was asking me how some of the stats were calculated when he stopped me mid-sentence. “Why is the most important number in baseball 9?” he asked pointedly.  I hadn’t ever thought about it. It’s true that there are 9 innings, 9 players on the field, 9 hitters in a lineup. A perfect inning is 9 straight strikes. But I couldn’t explain how the old Knickerbocker teams settled on these numbers when they were formalizing the rules of the modern game.  I told Virtute, I simply didn’t know. “I have a theory,” he responded, clever as always. So I asked him to let me hear it.  “Well, it’s kinda out of left field,” he began, proud of his baseball pun.  “You see, cats consider the number 9 to be very important, we have 9 lives after all.  In Chinese culture 9 is a homonym for the word longlasting – and well that’s definitely true of baseball. But most of all, nine aligns baseball with the planets – the nine planet’s of our solar system.”

I interrupted Virtute to remind him that since Pluto was disqualified, the number of planets was technically 8.  Angry, he spun around and blurted, “Don’t you ever say that again, unless you want to play baseball without a rightfielder! Can you imagine the imbalance that would create? It is the first composite lucky number. It is a beautiful number that signifies balance in the heavens and on earth. It is a number the symbolizes perfect balance, just like the game of baseball.  Don’t believe me? Try multiplying any number by 9, then add the resulting digits and reduce them to a single digit, it always becomes a 9.”

I spent the rest of the afternoon calculating, 9 x 134 = 1,206 = 1+2+0+6= 9, 9 x 832 = 7,488 = 7+4+8+8 =27 = 2+7=9…..and like an asymptote I travelled along an endless line, ungoverned by the rules of time, only by the rules of 9. Virtute had taught me a lesson about baseball, it was impressive.

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Special Guest Post: Remus the Cat’s Birthday Greetings

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Not long ago on a very quiet afternoon while I was catching up on my winter readings, I caught Remus, my 5 year old faerie main coo when he interrupted me, saying “although I distrust technology, I keep finding myself drawn to its useful qualities, for example, snapping up a picture of me reminds me that sometimes, I may look a little bored or aloof, but most of the time, I’m just anxious and awkward. I think a lot about that, I prefer memories and I try to remember, as best as I can”

His thoughts got me thinking on how important it had been for me to preserve memories in the form of words and pictures. I recently came across a post I made about the passing of our little Minerva, who came into our lives alongside Remus half a decade ago. As if he had read my mind he said to me “I like looking out the window, to remind myself of when I was outside with that little white cat. We were found together, you know that right? I look at the stray cats in the alleyway in front of our house and it reminds me of her, today it’s been 5 years since she left us”

There are so many of my own memories that don’t actually have documentation. Like the time I met Craig for the first time in a place called The Hole in The Wall, and we karaoke’d to the rythm of mojitos, and the rallies, time spent together and the hard times.Or the first time I hung out with Virtute on the roof of Chester House. I found myself remembering that some of the most awesome memories still live in my brain, so I asked remus if there was anything he wanted to say about that “I finally got to spend some quality time with Craig this summer, and we had good chemistry. I was kind of glad he doesn’t enjoy picture-taking as much as you though, my fur on a sweaty summer day is not flattering at all. As for Virtute… is that an alter ego of his’, a place to ponder on humanity itself? or is he truly a living cat?

For anyone who knows Remus, his skepticism shouldn’t come as a surprise, his own life experiences have left him with difficulty trusting others, usually running right underneath the bed when hearing footsteps or laughter.

On the topic of birthdays, Remus added “Birthdays are all kinds of complicated, but I feel like these are moments that warrant documenting them. It’s awesome to see your friends grow into themselves, and it’s always fun to look back at who we were that got us into today.” A little while later, after eating dinner, Remus jumped onto my bed and said “memory is habit sometimes, like looking out the window, sweet friendship memories, or having a favourite spot on the bed, I don’t need pictures to show you that I’m always little spoon”

Happy birthday Virtute and Craig! and Minerva, you’re always with us.

Episode Thirty Five: You & the 6

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As you might recall, Virtute is one of the biggest Drake fans of all time. So when the new mixtape “If you are reading this it’s too late” was dropped surprisingly this week, Virtute pretty much spent the whole day listening to the album on repeat.  In fact, the whole house fell silent safe for the prophetic, yet hyper-literal, lyrics of Toronto’s prodigal son.

Virtute’s been playing the track “You & the 6” over and over today though.  As usual, I’m curious as to why some songs really appeal to Virtute and others he discards quite quickly (I guess it’s a whole generational thing). Anyhow, Virtute was a little annoyed that I was disturbing his listening experience, but he relented and explained, “This song hits home. I think a lot of my mama, Jenny, she really raised me, her and this city have craddled me. It was Jenny who taught me how to fetch and who gave me cuddles when I was anxious at night. She’s always learning who I am and who I am becoming and she’s learned to let me be me.  At the same time, this city shaped me as well. I’ve explored rooftops on Chester Avenue and scary stairs on Dufferin and I’ve laid low in the garden here on Dublin.  All the while that tower looked over me, let me know things would be ok. It’s funny what cradles us, isn’t it?”

Virtute can be so melodramatic when it comes to Drake songs, but in some ways he was on point. Jenny & the 6 raised him right, probably saved his life.

Episode Thirty Four: Year of Ox

IMG_20150210_103440Next week is going to be an important time in our house.  Over the last few years, as a family, we’ve tried to observe the lunar calendar in a variety of ways.  We’ve tried to celebrate solstices and equinoxes, we’ve developed traditions based on the moon phases, and we’ve started to incorporate teachings about Chinese lunar/solar holidays into our family rituals.

Virtute particularly enjoys these things since he is probably the most connected to the moon out of all of us, though perhaps Jenny would dispute this given her wolf-like proclivities. Anyhow, I was mentioning to Virtute that this year we will be celebrating the Year of the Ox.**  While Virtute is normally quite joyous to take part in celebrating each new year, this year he became quiet and distressed after I brought it up.

I was uncertain as to what had caused him to get into such a funk, so I asked what was the matter. The first few days of prodding yielded little results and it wasn’t until the full moon last week that he divulged what was on his mind.  He approached me in the middle of writing and flopped across my arms. Then he blurted it all out. “Year of the Ox,” he heaved his inflection so fiercely that the sound of the word “ox” sort of lingered in the air like an echo.  “Year of the Ox,” he repeated.  “Of all the animals in the zodiac, none was more useful to civilizing regimes.  The ox was the most useful animal in rice-based statist regimes and many upon many of Indigenous peoples fled into the mountains to avoid the fate that would beset them should they be confronted with the various dynasties intent on creating these hierarchies. But many could not flee and they became overwhelmed.”  I knew that the ox had been one of the first animals to be effectively domesticated to help in rice paddy production, but I didn’t understand his consternation.  So, of course, I had to ask.

Normally contemplative, Virtute responded promptly, “These were the first of the animal beings to be saddled with domestication and domination.  They represent all the animals who have become partially or fully domesticated: goats, pigs, dogs, cows, gerbils, even us cats. This year is an important year. This year is a year that we must re-focus on our collective liberation, we must remember the teachings and traditions we held before the march of progress, and we must always reflect on the longstanding struggle of the ox and the sheep and the horse and all those other animals like the Atlas Bear and the Passenger Pigeon who were made extinct because they refused to succumb to these systems of domination.”

Virtute, resolute, hopped back in his cat condo and began conspiratorial conversations with Gumption. I slid back into my seat and watched the moon glow brightly outside my window.

**Note: Our friend Anabel kindly informed us that the animal that Virtute and I were discussing on the lai si envelope is actually a Goat – so alas this year is not The Year of the Ox, but The Year of the Goat. Fortunately, goats hold the title of “beast of burden” for the same reason as the ox, so we have concluded that this post can still stand.  Let this year be the year of the insurrection. 

Episode Thirty Three: Mean

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Virtute has a bit of a reputation for being mean.  I can’t say that it’s warranted, but I do think that he does have spurts and bouts of desire to dominate or to annoy that seem to suggest that he’s doing it on purpose. For instance, a few days ago he spent over an hour crying loudly at Jenny’s door to be let in, only to stay for a moment and then begin crying loudly to be let out. And last night he ate a large dinner and then skulked around waiting for Gumption to finish her tiny portion in order to ensure that he could get to her dish to finish it off – hungry or not.

It’s not a good look.  This morning I decided to ask him why he sometimes acts mean.  Rather than push back and get defensive, which is what I expected, he instead tried to be reflective and put his behaviour into a larger perspective.  “I think cats have that reputation in general,” he began. “There’s this idea that cats are mean and dogs are kind, it’s all over the Internet and it kind of sets us all up in some way. But there’s also some truth to it. I think part of the impression that we are mean comes from our desire to maintain some control within and against the process of domestication.”

I asked him what he meant, and his explanation began to hit home. “Look, it’s not like you’re immune to this either? In fact, I’d say that most people organizing against capitalism, racism, colonialism and other forms of power structures come off as mean.  It’s tough being the one’s who are pushing back against what feels like a powerful tidal wave.  And frankly, there’s truth to that too. You folks on the radical left tend to be mean. You tend to be judgmental and quick to anger. You tend to concentrate on telling people what they are doing wrong and not trying to invite people into different and potentially better ways of being.  It’s not necessarily fair, just like for cats, that you folks get labelled as mean by those resistant to different ways of being, but there is truth to it too.”

Feeling a bit humbled, I apologized for calling him mean.  “Don’t apologize,” he snapped back, perhaps a little too briskly.  “I’m glad you brought this up with me.  I definitely want to fight this domestication, but I also want you and those around me to know that I love you and know that I want to invite you in – to struggle together.  So I will think about ways that I can be kind instead of mean.” Sheepishly, I asked what he thought I should do or at least those of us on the left should do to be less mean. Lowering his eyes and staring me down, he replied, “Listen to your movement elders. You know, Grace Lee Boggs once said, ‘We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other,’ and that requires acting out of kindness rather than meanness. One day I’ll tell you about the etymology of kindness.”

And there we sat, two mean kids trying to be kind in a cruel world. I’m glad to have Virtute as a friend to work these things out.