Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, we concocted a plan to take Chuck with us--my husband and I--when we travel around the world, which we do frequently. Not an easy task. First, we have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when we arrive, we pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Giraffes in the Wild

      Chuck gave me no peace after I kissed Daisy.  For if the truth be told, I think he fell in love too.  When you’ve been kissed by a giraffe, or if you are close enough to watch someone being kissed by a giraffe, it is as if you are hit by a bolt of lightning.  Things are never quite the same.  We were in Kenya, Africa.  Chuck, Bob and I.  On a safari.  
      After Nairobi and the giraffe sanctuary, we headed south to stay at a camp in the central part of Kenya in the mountains.  And we had one more opportunity to see giraffes.
      Our guide, one late afternoon, told us, as he pointed toward a trail that led up a winding mountain that if we wanted, he could take us up to see the giraffe.  He knew where they would be hanging out at dusk.  So we hopped into the safari vehicle and traveled up the rocky trail until we reached the top of the mountain.  We dismounted and began to walk in the tall grass toward the spot where Stephen said the giraffe tended to congregate every night.  
      My heart was pounding.  It was one thing to be in a sanctuary and to watch the giraffe frolicking in the field in front of you.  And granted, it was pretty cool to kiss one.  But to be out in the open, in the wild, knowing that giraffe were out there somewhere, fifty feet or less from you, and that any minute you might see one--well, that was something I had never experienced before.  
      Even Chuck was excited.  He stuck his snarky head out of my bag and sniffed the air.  He pointed his Chuck paw toward the trees in the distance.  Stephen motioned us to stop.  Luckily, we were down wind.  We needed to be very quiet.  Sure enough, as our eyes adjusted to the dimming light around us, we picked out first one, then two giraffe--munching on the leaves of the trees.  Casually.  Contently.  Feeling relatively safe in their home environment. 
      Then we saw even more.  An entire family of giraffe had gathered together, like they do every evening.   
      This moment was like magic.   
      I smiled at Chuck.  He smiled at me.  
      Stephen motioned that we could move closer, and as we sidled through the tall grasses, our gaze glued to the giraffe, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be seeing this sight.  I knew I would never forget this place or this moment for the rest of my life.  
      And in the quiet calmness of the oncoming evening, with only the sound of wind rustling through the trees, I could hear Chuck’s purring beside me.  The Chuck was mesmerized, enthralled by the sight.  
       Being out in nature like this was better than reality T.V.  
        It was so purrfect . . . until . . . I felt a rustling.  I was so intent on watching the giraffe, so intent on capturing them on film that I had taken my attention off of my usually rascally cat, Chuck.  He had somehow managed to slip out of my bag.  Now on the ground, at my feet, he was proceeding to stalk toward the giraffe, determined, as only Chuck can be, to get a closer look.
        Psst.  
        But, of course, he paid me no mind.
        “Chuck, get back here,” I hissed, afraid that his presence would scare the giraffe off.
        He must have heard my anxiety for he stopped, mid-step, and began moon-walking backwards, but very slowly, trying, I think, to savor every last darned minute of being a “bad boy.”  
         When he was finally close enough, I swooped him up and stuffed him, head first, back into my bag.
         “Yikes,” I heard him yell.
         “You deserve it.”
       Later, back at our tent, we kicked our heels back, poured a few glasses of wine, and drank a toast to those giraffe, and tried to forget Chuck’s little act of misbehavior.  He had almost ruined the moment, but when you travel with a cat named Chuck, you can never let your guard down . . . never!  
       Do you agree??  Can a cat like Chuck be trusted?  Do you have a cat like Chuck?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kissing Daisy - the Giraffe

     Chuck’s promise to give up wine did not last long. He loves his milk.  What cat doesn’t.  And he’s also a little too partial to Bloody Mary’s.  Hey, I’ve seen the “belly boy” down two or three glasses in a sitting, lapping them up from his designated bowl before I had a chance to say--whoa, boy.  But that’s another story for another day. 
     A while ago Bob and I decided to fly around the world to Africa, to Kenya, to be exact and go on a safari.  I had this idea in my head that I wanted to see giraffes up close and personal.  Now, if you ask me, they are the most beautiful of all the wild creatures roaming the plains.  Tall and elegant.  Good natured.  But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would have the unique opportunity to kiss one. 
     Now, I could blame Chuck.   After all, when someone offers you a chance to do the unthinkable, common sense usually intrudes.   And I am a sensible person.  I could say--if it weren’t for Chuck, I never would have kissed that giraffe.  
     Let me tell you the story and let you decide.
     Bob and I were in Nairobi visiting a giraffe sanctuary.  Now we don’t have giraffe sanctuaries here in the states, but in Kenya, these places are very popular.  They are unique habitats where giraffes live in semi-wild places, protected  environments, which mimic a giraffe’s own natural habitat.  But with the added benefit that naturalists, etc. can study the giraffe, and visitors (this is where I come in) can see and interact with them.  The sanctuaries offer the usual gift shop (believe it or not), but they also offer a large platform that visitors can stand on which enables them to be eye to eye with the giraffes who are frolicking out in the field. 
    So imagine many visitors on this platform and then suddenly everyone leaves to go to the gift shop.  But Bob and I and Chuck, who is hidden in my smart bag, stay behind because I just love giraffes and I have no interest in the gift shop.  Suddenly, one of the attendants asks--quite out of the blue-- “Would you like to kiss a giraffe?”  
     The idea is so preposterous sounding, I immediately say no.  Of course not.  I cannot even imagine it.  First of all, even though they are beautiful, their heads are gigantic and when you are as close to them as I am, a bit scary.   And second of all, although I have been feeding them, giraffes have the longest and slimiest of tongues that I have ever seen.  Pitch black.   And they seem to move like lightning.
     We lure the giraffes from the fields with the promise of food.  Small pellets which we hold in our hands.  The giraffes lap them off our palms or nibble them from our fingers.  So I have felt that tongue on my hands and fingers.  
     Kiss a giraffe?
     “Are you sure?” the attendant asks again.   
     Now this is where Chuck comes in because he is poking his head out of the bag and he gives me that Chuck look which I know all too well.   That disappointed look.  He would like to see me kiss a giraffe.  Make his day!
     “Well, what would I have to do?”
     Now the attendant gets excited.  “It is so easy,” he says.  “Put a pellet of food between your lips.  Like this.”  He demonstrates.  “Then Daisy will come up and remove the pellet.  Her lips will touch yours.”
     Ah, I realize, that will be the kiss.
     “Do not worry, giraffes have the cleanest mouths on the plains,” he says to reassure me.
     “Do it,” Chuck whispers.  
      OMG.  Do I dare?  I finger the pellet of food and then place it gingerly between my lips.  My knees are shaking.  And my hands.  I glance over at Daisy.  She is mooning about, waiting for more food. 
     “Now lean over so she can see you have food,” the attendant directs.
     I hesitate.  
     “Chicken,” Chuck meows.
     I lean over the rail, and Daisy swoops in.  I ram shut my eyes, petrified, aware only of what is about to happen.  I expect to be slobbered, but I am so wrong.  Her lips are like a gentle wind as they touch mine and extract the pellet.   
     When it is over, I smile from ear to ear.  
     I have kissed a giraffe.   Her name is Daisy.
     Chuck smiles too.  
     I think I am in love.
     So what do you think?  Should I have kissed that giraffe????

     

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Meet Chuck - The Rascal Cat

     I know who you were hoping for.  Some big hulking hunk of  a guy.  The usual Chuck kind of guy.  Not a luscious orange and white tabby cat.  But trust me, Chuck is a rascal.  A bad boy of the first order. And Chuck has been traveling with me on every trip for the last few years.  He has gotten used to being stuffed into my carry-on, even though it was way easier when he was the cute kitten of yesteryear.
     His twelve pounds of hulking weight could have put me in danger of going over on my luggage weight.  After all, he has the nickname of "Belly Boy."  But he prefers to be stuffed into my carry-on.
     You might be wondering how all this got started--this unusual travel arrangement.  Chuck's idea, of course.  He was snooping in my travel diary and happened to notice Bob and I were booked to fly to Italy and Chuck, being a "gourmet," decided on the spot he just had to taste cat food "italian style."
     Which brings me to the night in question.  We arrived and did some touring, which Chuck did not participate in--he is into food and not into cathedrals and churches and statues and such--but he was getting bored in the hotel and decided to shrink down and come with us when we went for our nightly "passegiata," which is Italian for walk.  He was in my shoulder bag, snuggled in nice and comfy, his nose protruding just enough, so that if we wandered by anything that looked good enough to eat, he'd know about it, when hubby and I heard music--rock and rock--from a live band.
      We followed the music in this teeny tiny Italian town called Aquilla, which means the eagle, and we stumbled onto a party.  A slew of Italians were partying in front of a school, not far from the town square, celebrating the graduation of a young man from university.  His brother was the superintendent of schools and welcomed us over as if we were long discovered lost relatives who had just flown in.
     Now Chuck doesn't speak Italian, but he does appreciate a good wine, and he didn't mind hopping out and lapping up that luscious dry red wine from the plastic cup which was provided.  In fact, he had a bit too much to drink, but he behaved himself and became quite the hit of the party.
     A little known secret--Chuck can dance when he puts his mind to it.  And he did--with a gorgeous Italian college girl who he spotted the minute she waltzed over.  Yeah, what can I say?  Chuck loves his twin sister Ella to death, but when he's on the road, belly boy is a mover and a shaker.  And Chuck, under the illusion at times, that he was named after Chuck Berry, the original "Let's do the twist" guy that goes all the way back to the swingin' sixties, actually can do the twist, and if I had had my wits about me, I would have snapped that shot, but I didn't.  Unfortunately, I, too, had had too much wine to drink.  Bob and I had spotted literally cases of wine bottles sitting in the corner--that Italia for you--and these lovely Italians were cracking open another bottle--one a minute, it seemed to me.
     What I did see was Chuck, cuddled in the arms of this girl, swaying to the music one minute and the next, he had hopped down onto the pavement and was twisting away.  Not easy for a cat, despite what you see on cat food commercials.  Chuck managed to propel himself onto his two hind paws, stand erect and twist.
     The next morning, the poor cat had a hangover.  In fact, we all had hangovers.  Chuck blamed the wine and swore off all drinking--except for milk, of course.
      Chuck when he was a bit younger.  Courtesy of www.katelutter.com