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, April 29, 2012

Chuck Meets an Orangutan






    Chuck wanted to meet an orangutan.

    That’s basically what started the adventure to the zoo.

    I wanted to visit the Schonbrunn Zoo for a thousand reasons, one of which included the fact that this fabulous Baroque-style zoo housed an orangerie which housed Vienna’s orangutans.  And who doesn’t want to come face to face with an orangutan?

    But, as we rode the subway system that afternoon to the zoo, I tried to explain to my rascal cat that the zoo had so much more to offer.

    “Chuck, this zoo is the oldest zoo in existence.  Do you realize that Emperor Franz I technically first brought visitors to see his menagerie of interesting animals behind the palace back in 1752?  Today that site--the zoo--is considered a UNESCO world heritage site.”

    When I ramble on and on and throw out what I consider interesting historical facts, Chuck always looks amazingly bored.  If you can, imagine the three of us (Chuck, my husband, and myself) riding in a subway car, ever alert for our stop, while I am whispering this pseudo lecture to Chuck, who is semi-stuffed in my smart bag.  He is not a happy camper. Because all he wants to do is to meet an orangutan.

    When we reach our stop, we climb the stairs to the outside and walk the few blocks to the Schonbrunn Palace, then follow the path to the zoo.  There will be no escape for Chuck because I’m determined to tell him what I know about this wonderful place.

    “Listen, there are over two millions visitors who come from all over the world each year.”
 
     Chuck, by now his head clearly visible out of the smart bag, is busy gazing around as we traverse a little used path to the zoo.
 
 “The zoo has more than 500 animal species and is considered one of the most modern zoos in the world.”

    Chuck shoots me a glance, and I wonder if he understands the concept of species or even cares, for that matter.

    “Okay, but Schonbrunn was voted the best zoo in Europe in 2009 and 2010.”

    We reach the entrance gate, and Chuck ducks back down as we pay our fee.

    Inside, we waste no time getting our bearings and scoping out the surroundings.  It will take us ten minutes to walk to the orangutan exhibit.  Chuck seems to be interested in little else.  But that’s how he is.  Once he puts his mind to something, he cannot be distracted.

    Finally, we arrive, and we are lucky that for the moment, the exhibit is  practically deserted.  A few moms with babies in strollers are nearby, but we have the perfect moment for my rascal cat to emerge and do what he’s been dying to do all day--meet an orangutan.

    I have no idea how this will go or what Chuck actually intends to do.

    I watch as he hops out of my bag and lands on the sand in front of the glass wall that separates the orangutan from us.

    The orangutan glances over and spots us.  Slowly, he meanders over in that lovely orangutan way, his long hairy arms propelling him along the grassy ground, until he can’t get any closer.  He presses his face up to the glass.

    Chuck peeks up at the orangutan, and the orangutan looks down at my cheeky boy in what I would call “wide-eyed” wonder.

    Obviously, they are curious about each other.

    I wonder--if the glass wasn’t there--if they would shake--hand to paw.

    But they don’t, of course.

    And I know little to nothing about orangutans at that moment, and ever worried about my Chuck, the horrid thought shoots through my head-- would this orangutan eat my cat, if he had the chance??

    Later, I do research and discover that orangutans don’t eat cats.  In fact, orangutans eat mostly tropical fruit, leaves, bark, sprouts, and insects.  They are also highly intelligent and use tools to forage for food.  Interestingly enough, they are also bothered, like humans are,  by mosquitoes.

    When the all too brief encounter is over, the orangutan shifts away from the glass.

    “Are you happy now, Chuck?”

    Chuck watches as this giant red ape saunters back to where he was originally, and I wonder if this was the first time this orangutan ever saw a cat?

    All I know is that this is the first time my cat has seen an orangutan.

    And I would bet all the rice in China that he’ll never forget it.

    IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO READ MORE, LOG ONTO WWW.KATELUTTER.COM

   Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  Recently it was rated 5 Stars by The E Book Reviewers, who said, "At the very core . . . is a multi-level mystery, with plot twists and turns that you never expected. And there is a deep touching love story that grasped my heart and never let go.  This is one book you must go buy now; once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it back down."  
       
 
 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chuck Visits Charles Bridge for Good Luck




Does a cat even need good luck?

 But let me start from the beginning.

 Prague, the capital of The Czech Republic, is a beautiful city to visit. The ancient Victorian style buildings make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. There are cable cars that run down the main street of Prague. And when you’re sure that you can’t absorb even one more quaint shop or cobblestone street, there is the Charles Bridge, an icon, which I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of until I came to Prague.

 Now, I suspect, that Chuck learned of the bridge from that cow he met in France, when they were snuggled together near the barn. She probably told him all about the bridge, probably told him that he was NAMED AFTER THE BRIDGE.

 That part isn’t true. Chuck (and he’s heard this story a million times) was named after a good friend of ours, who also happens to be a rascal. The Charles Bridge had nothing to do with it. Anyway, I’m sure that’s the reason why Chuck was inspired, almost obsessed, with the need to see the bridge and walk it.

Once we arrived in Prague, Chuck could think about nothing else. Now, luckily, the Charles Bridge was about a twenty minute walk from our hotel. So, the next morning, early, we hiked to the bridge, amidst the early morning mist and when we arrived, I filled the Chuckster in with what I call the “bridge background” as we admired the stone structure before us.

 After all, this wasn’t any ordinary bridge. This bridge had history. “This bridge is old,” I told him. “Construction began in 1357 under King Charles IV.” And as I said those words, I thought about how old this bridge was. I mean 1357. That’s old. Really old. “It was finally finished at the beginning of the 15th Century, and it was the only way to cross the Vitava River until 1841.

 In fact, this bridge connected the Prague Castle with Old Town and made Prague an important trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.” In other words, I thought this to myself because the Chuckster is adverse to too much explanation, without this bridge, Prague would have been NOWHERE instead of a very hopping place. Chuck shifted a bit in my arms, and I knew even with my brief explanations, he was anxious to get on the bridge.

 “Now you’ll notice, the bridge is made of stone, and it was called the Stone Bridge until 1870 when it was re-named the Charles Bridge.”

 Chuck made as if to jump down. If I wasn’t going to take him to the bridge, he had plans to get there himself. But I held him a bit tighter and kept on talking. “This bridge has seen floods, executions, and battles.” And I would have described some of the executions, but there was more squirming.

 “Chuck, I’m telling you this for a reason.”

 The squirming stopped.

 “When you’re trotting across, notice all the statues. There are 30 different baroque style statues, the most famous statue, of course is John of--”

 I never finished my sentence.

 Chuck took off, leaping out of my arms, in a super strong twisting fashion, heading across that bridge like a rascal boy with a mission. Where the hell was he going? Luckily, we were there early and the bridge was almost completely deserted.

 Which is not the usual state of affairs.

 The Charles Bridge is famous and besides the millions of tourists that visit each year, the bridge is jammed with painters, vendors and kiosks.

 I took off after him and by the time I caught up with him . . .

 There Chuck was--poised in front of the most famous statue.

 I finished my sentence. “John of Nepumuk. National Saint of the Czech Republic. Who was drowned in the Vitava River by King Wenceslaus because he refused to tell the King what the Queen had told him.”

 Chuck looked up at me.

 I knew what he wanted.

 Good Luck.

 It’s an old wives tale.

 Rub the statue for good luck.

 Sure enough, you can see the green has actually been rubbed off the statue where so many people have touched John the Nepumuk to get their share of the luck.

 I lifted the belly boy up and he ever so delicately placed his paw on the statue.

 “Did that girl cow put you up to this?” I asked, needing to know.

 But Chuck didn’t answer. Not that I thought he would.

 And Chuck, who’d had enough of being a rascal for one morning, snuggled close afterwards, as we walked across the Charles Bridge and admired the view, not once, but twice, and then we headed back to the hotel for breakfast because, after all, we don’t call him “Belly Boy” for nothing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chuck Makes Eyes at French Cow





We flew to France to see the sights--the touristy sights--the Eiffel Tower, Giverny (where Monet painted some of his most famous Impressionistic works), the Luxembourg Gardens (where Chuck almost drowned in a fountain), the incomparable Mona Lisa and so it was time to leave the big city behind and venture into the French countryside.

Well, the truth of the matter was--Chuck wanted to see some cows.

French cows.

Now, are French cows different from American cows or English cows?

I didn’t have the answer for that. And neither did Chuck, but since my ever wiley, rascally cat always seems to have an agenda, I suspected the answer to Chuck’s obsession with French cows had more to do with the farm that we decided to visit than with the cows themselves.

You see, this particular farm, located in the Normandy region of France, near the seaport town of Deauville, where we were staying, was an apple farm which specialized in making a famous French apple brandy--Calvados--a peculiar French word pronounced with a heavy stress on the “ss” sound at the end. And there just happened to be some cows who lived on this farm.

Chuck said he wanted to see the cows, but did he really just want to sample the Calvadossss?

If you’re like me, you never heard of Calvados--never knew that this innocent looking usually gold-colored liquid in the glass, distilled from apple cider, which had the distinct aroma of apples, apricots, butterscotch, nuts, and even chocolate, is aged for a minimum of two years in oak casks and is considered one of France’s culinary specialties--along with cider and cheese--in the region. People mostly drink Calvados for an aperitif but there are some French traditions which demand that you drink Calvados--glass after glass--between each of many courses, during the entire meal.

The Normandy Region is the most visited area in France. Some say it’s because of the green countryside, some point to the seaside, and others point to the Calvados. Chuck, of course, swears it’s the cows.

When we arrived at the farm, I have to admit the area was beautiful. And sure enough, Chuck immediately seemed to be taken by this lovely French cow who was lounging in the field near the farmhouse where we were supposed to be going.

Of course, we made a detour.

The people we were with, hurried to the tasting table, where glasses were lined up, filled with Calvados, and I thought for sure that’s where Chuch would want to be, too. But he kept craning his neck out of my smart bag, gazing off in the direction of the cow.

No big deal, I thought. We could always saunter over to the Calvados later.

But, again, I had my anxieties, now knowing how a cat would get on with a cow. And what was the attraction?

“Now, Chuck, just don’t go running over there. Proceed with caution. You may like her. (I assumed it was a her.) But who knows how she feels about you. And besides,”I added, I can’t even tell you why, “she’s French. She speaks French.”

Chuck wiggled out of my backpack, hopped to the ground and, with nary a glance back, scooted to the fence and hung over the railing, and just stared.

I stopped mid-step and waited.

Was the kid waiting for some kind of signal from her?

Sure enough, they seemed to be making eye-contact.

Then she--the French cow--let out a kind of “moooooo.”

Was that French for “Come on over?”

In an instant, Chuck hopped over the bottom railing and ran over to her. He lifted his face up to hers. She leaned down and sniffed him. And then he did what I would have never expected from this rambunctious lad.

He laid down next to her, so close that the snout of his face touched her arm.

All I could think of was--sweet.

And then, now what?

I saw this segment on Sixty Minutes where a dog and an elephant formed a relationship that lasted for years. I couldn’t imagine leaving my Chuck behind if he were suddenly to declare that he had a “thing” for this cow.

It turned out that the fact that she spoke French wasn’t important. Theirs was the language of love. (OK, I admit it--I write romance novels.)

We finally did make it to the Calvados tasting table. And, yeah, Chuckie did have a sip. But he’s not into brandy all that much. More curious than anything about the gold liquid swirling around in the glass . . .

As we were leaving the farm, Chuckie, my rascal cat, did run back to the lovely cow for one last sniff and, well, I have no idea what went on between them.

And I guess I’ll never know because on the way back to Deauville and even in the hotel afterwards, Chuck wasn’t talking.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Chuck Almost Drowns in Paris Fountain




The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris was not on my “To See List” until I strolled through it on my way to take Chuckie to see the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Calm and peaceful. Beautiful. I was immediately hooked.

Traveling the world with a rascal cat in tow has its challenges.

When we were in Paris, Chuckie’s insistence on visiting the Eiffel Tower was a bit of a disaster. And then seeing the Hunchback of Notre Dame almost led to arrest and imprisonment? So, going to a park seemed safe. After all, the Chuckster loves to be outside and there’s no better park to visit, when in Paris, than the Luxembourg Gardens.

The night before I began building interest for the idea.

“Chuck,” I said, “tomorrow, let’s visit the second largest pubic park in France. Buddy, this park dates back to 1611 and covers acres and acres of land. Think of all the fun you’ll have running around. And for once, cats are allowed.”

Now, cats don’t smile--much--but I detected a gleam in his eye. He looked pleased to hear that he wouldn’t have to spend most of his time squished in my smart bag.

The next morning--super early--we took off for our destination, which luckily, was within walking distance of our hotel. The Luxembourg Gardens is a mega attraction not only for Parisians but also tourists. Its heyday was in the 19th century when the park boasted a marionette theatre, a music kiosk, a greenhouse, an apiary (bee house), an orangerie with sculpure and modern art on display), a rose garden, fruit orchards, and 70 works of sculpture scattered over the grounds.

And even today, the park has over one hundred statues, monuments and fountains--which includes twenty figures of kings, and queens and saints--but we weren’t really interested in all of that. As soon as we arrived, we made a beeline for the “Fountain of the Observatory,” because I know my cat, and he loves the sound of running water.

“You’re going to love this fountain,” I told him. “And just don’t look at the water. There are four statues up there, and each woman represents one of the four continents--Europe, Asia, Africa and America. They are holding up the world and spinning it around. It’s pretty cool.”

Of course, the only thing that Chuck really cared about was the water. He watched it spill in giant torrents from the statues and splash around.

The moment we arrived he was mesmerized.

And I was a nervous wreck.

If there is one thing I’ve learned--expect the unexpected.

It was just like Chuck to want to go over and drink from the fountain.

Now, cats don’t like to bathe in water. Thank God. So I didn’t have any fear that he would jump into the fountain, but cats do unpredictable things, especially when provoked, and even though we had the fountain pretty much to ourselves, I was on super alert.
For awhile.

But Chuckie seemed calm as can be.

He sauntered up, casual like, to the fountain. Continuing to stare at the water.

And I have to admit--it is a majestic sight.

All was well. And, in fact, Chuck started sniffing around, actually relaxing and enjoying himself. The sun had come out and it was promising to be a beautiful day in Paris.

I should have known that things never stay all right for too long . . .

I should have known not to let my guard down . . .

But, seriously, what could happen?

A gigantic dog suddenly appear and threaten to eat the kid?

No, it wasn’t a dog.

It was a butterfly.

Cats can’t seem to resist butterflies.

Sure enough, Betty Butterfly whisked on by the Chuckster and did a few neat little spiral turns around his head.

Chuck noticed her.

Whether Betty noticed Chuck is another matter. She fluttered her pretty multi-colored wings and flew off for a minute, only to return seconds later, and then she flew off again.

Chuck followed. He jumped up, of course, and tried to swat at her, but she cleverly avoided him.

Betty flew closer to the fountain.

I didn’t notice.

Neither did Chuck. He wanted only one thing. To get that Butterfly.
Poor Betty.

Or, should I say, poor Chuck because her flying slowly enticed him to move closer and closer to the fountain.

Soon, she was hovering near the edge and even though Chuck could feel the spray of water on his whiskered face, he plowed forward anyway.

The second it happened, I knew he was in trouble.

But it was too late.

In his efforts to squash Betty, Chuck had leaped onto the edge of the fountain and now he precariously hovered there as she skittled into view.

I don’t even thing he heard my screams of warning.

The poor kid toppled head first into the fountain.

PLOP.

Betty Butterfly disappeared after that.

Deliberate attempt to get her revenge on my cat??

Well, we pulled Chuck out, and now we had no other choice but to return home--our day at the park, slightly ruined.

And, no, I didn’t say anything--like--Did you learn anything from this situation, Chuck?? Because, after all, it’s in a cat’s nature to chase butterflies just as it’s in a butterflies’ nature to entice cats.


Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  Recently it was rated 5 Stars by The E Book Reviewers, who said, "At the very core . . . is a multi-level mystery, with plot twists and turns that you never expected. And there is a deep touching love story that grasped my heart and never let go.  This is one book you must go buy now; once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it back down."  
       

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chuck Falls Hard for a Hunchback




It all began when Chuck, my rascal cat, became obsessed with the deformed bell ringer, Quasimodo, and wanted to meet him in person.

He’d seen the movie, and even though I wasn’t sure if he could follow the plot, I knew one thing for sure.

He loved the hunchback scenes. When Charles Laughton, who played the deformed bell ringer “Quasimodo” of the Notre Dame Cathedral, dragged himself across the screen, Chuck sat glued in front of the TV set.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a classic black and white film, released in December 1939 starring Maureen O’Hara as the gypsy girl Esmeralda who is framed for a murder by an infatuated Chief Justice played by Cedric Hardwicke. She is then saved by “Quasimodo” himself, the Hunchback, because she gives him water when no one else dares to show him the smallest kindness.

How can you forget the scene when he faces her and says, “I am not man. I am not beast. I’m as shapeless as the man in the moon.”

Fast forward.

I went to Paris because so many people raved about how beautiful Paris was. Chuck, we later discovered, had a very different agenda. Besides wanting to see the Eiffel Tower, he wanted to meet the HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.

QUASIMODO HIMSELF.

As if a fictional character from a book, a film, really existed.

In our hotel room in the Montparnasse, I sat Chuck down and tried to explain. “Quasimodo isn’t real. It’s a made up story. If we go to Paris and visit the cathedral, he won’t be there, I promise.”

Chuck stared at me, and tilted his head slightly to the left.

I know Chuck very well. When he does that, he isn’t buying a word I am saying.

I tried another tact. “Have it your way. We’ll go to the Cathedral. After all, we are in Paris. You can see for yourself. No Quasimodo.”

The next morning, bright and early, Chuck was ready to go.

We were not close to the Cathedral, but we were within walking distance if we crossed through the Luxembourg Gardens. Luckily, it was a nice weather day.

Chuck had watched the Hunchback of Notre Dame movie a lot. He knew exactly what the cathedral looked like. And although modern Paris looked a lot different than the 15th century Paris portrayed in the movie, the cathedral looked almost exactly the same--very medieval--even though it went through extensive renovations in the 19th century.

Of course, it didn’t hit me until we were inside and I stopped to light a candle that Chuck was going to expect to go to the top into the BELL TOWER. After all, if you are looking for Quasimodo, you’ll not see him lounging around near the altar. Oh no, he will be up, up, up in the BELL TOWER.

And, of course, the route to the top, to the South Tower, is not easy.

Poor Chuck.

How could I possibly explain to him that the Notre Dame Cathedral is an historic landmark? One cannot wander around at will.

Plus, the place is very crowded.

If you stop to admire something for longer than a second, someone is bound to bump into you.

I could feel the Chuckster rustling around in my smart bag.

He wanted to peek out and scan the cathedral for Quasimodo.

And any minute he was going to expect to climb the 387 stairs and go up to the South Tower, past the gargoyles and the chimeras, designed by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century.

We squirreled ourselves in a corner, and I let Chuck sniff around. He was content for a moment. I whispered a few relevant facts in his hear - that construction for the the cathedral was begun in 1163, that it took over 200 years to complete . . .

Suddenly, someone tapped my shoulder.

A concerned tourist was trying to warn me that we’d been spotted.

Someone in charge, someone who looked very official with a terrible scowl on his face and a walkie-talkie type instrument in his hand, was making his way toward me and my rascal cat.

I imagine smuggling a cat into the Notre Dame Cathedral was punishable by LIFE IMPRISONMENT and/or DEATH?

And I don’t speak a word of French. Only Italian.

There was only one way out of this dilemma and of this cathedral.

I began to push and shove my way through the massive crowds. Then we disappeared into the sea of faces that swarmed the front entrance like ants.

Some missions--like meeting Quasimodo--the Hunchback of Notre Dame-- are just impossible to achieve.

If Quasimodo was up there in the bell tower, as Chuckie suspected, I imagined he was gazing down as we scampered off. And laughing.


Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  Recently it was rated 5 Stars by The E Book Reviewers, who said, "At the very core . . . is a multi-level mystery, with plot twists and turns that you never expected. And there is a deep touching love story that grasped my heart and never let go.  This is one book you must go buy now; once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it back down."