Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chunk 1 of 'Remembrances '

The map room and the cat house.

I’ve always be fascinated by maps. It’s strange how you can look at a globe and not really see all that’s there. It’s like when you see video from a space station, all those strange shapes going by, you’d think you’d know what they are, but the scale is off. Google Earth is cool and all, so is GPS, but there is nothing like a good old fashioned map.
The apartment that I lived in with Sharon had two bedrooms. During the summer, we kept most of the place we kept air conditioned, but the second room was open to the weathers heat. It looked out onto St Charles road, and many where the nights that I would get home late from work and I would have a drink or two, listen to Larry King on the radio and watch the traffic go by. In the middle of the room was a poker table I bought from a second hand store 3 blocks away. I recall carrying that heavy thing over my back, one leg extended to rest on my shoulder. It had a green center section surrounded in a octagon of cup holders and wooden places for your chips. They where many poker games held on that old table.
The walls of the room where the coolest part. I had collected maps from national Geographic magazine for years. I had also come across maps from other places; one was from an antique shop with my dad that was a map of the known solar system from the 60’s. I thumb tacked them to the walls of the room, after a while there where no empty places at all. As you entered the room, immediately to your right where two big maps of Chicago. In truth, it was the same map, but it had two sides showing Chicago in different ways, so I bought two copies to show both sides. There was also a smaller map near the light switch that I had cut out of a newspaper that showed the crime rates for all the various neighborhoods. I had outlined the bad areas on the small map, and then outlined them on one of the bigger maps. If we ever got invited to a party in the city, I would first check to see what the dangers where first.
I had maps of all kinds of places, up close, like Manhattan Island and London, to maps of the USA and the whole world. I had maps of the middle east, Africa, the Mediterranean and one that showed through several stages, our solar system, then the nearest stars, followed by the local cluster to the Milky way galaxy and where we where in it. While you can see all of this online, it’s small, and nothing like just moving your eyes over a wall to explore even the Vatican. One of these days, when I can afford it, I’d love to have a room like that again.
There was another cool thing in that room, well, in the closet really. It all started small, just a couple of stacked boxes taped together with holes cut into it for the cats to climb into or look out through. Then, naturally, I got carried away. I read a bit on plaster of Paris, but I’m not sure if I got the ingredients right. The article I read had several recipes, and I chose the simplest. Taking a big bowl, filling it with water and flour, I ripped strips of newspaper to dip into the mixture. I would then apply the strips to the boxes at odd angles and let it dry. It was really pretty strong, such simple materials. I don’t know how long it took me, but sooner or later I had pulled the doors off the closet and had filled it with this adobe like stacks of different sized boxes, from floor to the shelf near the top. I had made all kind of connecting holes through it with openings between boxes and peep holes that cats love to look through. Six feet wide and up to three feet deep at places, it took up the whole closet. I placed remnants of carpet in many of the rooms and smeared the entire thing with flour soaked newspaper till it was all white. I almost felt bad that I only had two cats to enjoy it all.
I explored the cat hose one day with a video camera and a light beamed in from the outside. I’ll have to dig up the tape some day.
After a year or so, I thought I should pull the carpet out and vacuum it out of all the cat hair. Well, as I said earlier, I don’t think I got all the ingredients right. They must have listed something to seal it that I hadn’t used. Why do I think this? Well, after pulling a few pieces of carpet, I noticed something moving. Looking closer, there where a lot of things moving. Seems there is some kind of tiny white worm maggoty thing that loved the flour. AYIIIIEEEE. That was nasty! I was torn… maybe I could vaccume them all out… but there where too many nooks and crannies. Maybe I could exterminate them, but no, that might hurt the cats. Crap. I faced the reality that I had to get rid of it. I felt bad that the cats where going to loose their favorite place to escape to and relax. It’s part of the great pattern of my life, build up an ‘Empire’ of something cool, only to loose it again.
I pried it out in two big sections and dragged it down the stairs from the third floor and across the street where there was a big dumpster. I left the parts sitting in front of it rather then trying to get it inside the dumpster. There is a funny twist to it all… within hours of me abandoning the bug infested thing, someone had seen it and grabbed it for themselves! I wondered how long they kept it before they found its many inhabitants? Ewwww…. LOL.

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