Passing thoughts

Anyone remember Screaming Yellow Zonkers? They were the favorite snack food of Donovan Withers, the 4-year-old son of Penny Lane, whose real name was Janice Withers and who lived at Rotchdale, a commune in New Haven when I was working in the city in 1970. I met Penny – she did not answer to Janice – through Joni, who was a waitress at Hungry Charlie’s, which had THE BEST roast beef sandwiches that we sometimes ate while drinking beer and listening to Yalies tell each other how incredibly smart they were. Maybe they were. Most of them were probably smarter than I, that’s for sure.

Joni introduced me, because Penny needed $35 to pay something to Rochdale, maybe dues, before they’d accept her, and Joni thought I was the perfect local bank to lend out that money. When I explained that this might be a really bad idea, Joni got huffy, and Penny got the money.

ANYWAY, Screaming Yellow Zonkers were yellow, and I think they were some sort of popcorn, but I never had the nerve to try them, and I doubt Donovan would have given me any. He didn’t like me; I didn’t like him. I never much liked boy kids.

Sometimes, I wonder what happened to things like Screaming Yellow Zonkers, and now I wonder if Zonker, the character in Doonesbury, was named after Screaming Yellow Zonkers, because they were popular when Gary Trudeau was at Yale and maybe he, too, lent Penny Lane some money, and maybe Donovan liked him enough to share his Zonkers.

You remember, I’m sure, the song “I Talk to the Trees” if from no other place than from the first Barbra Streisand album, her only brilliant album.

It goes, in part, like this:

“I talk to the trees, but they don’t listen to me.”

I thought of that song recently in terms of my cat, Mandy, but with slightly different words:

“I talk to the cat, but she won’t listen to me.”

OK, three words of difference. Sue me.

And I thought of that, because of a recent Wall Street Journal article about the proliferation of “cat cafes” around the country and the problems encountered by cafe owners and patrons. The latter pay money to sit in the cafes, drink coffee and interact with cats. The owners provide the cats, often from shelters.

Oh, c’mon, you can already see the problem: How do you interact with an animal that sleeps 12 to 16 hours a day? Mandy does. I talk to her anyway but, as you can imagine, I have trouble getting through to her.

But the other day, when she was awake for a few moments, I read the story about cat cafes to her and I said, “This sounds like a job for you. You’re qualified. You’re a cat, and you sleep AT LEAST 16 hours a day. Are you interested in applying, say to a cafe in Oregon?”

She sneered and said, in cat language, “Sounds like far too much work, and I hate people.”

I said, “You don’t hate me.”

Mandy snickered and climbed back into her cubby under the kitchen bench and went to sleep.

I think, though, that we should all avoid any IPO involving cat cafes.

Hey, does this make you think of anyone in Washington? Everyone in Washington?

“Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties, are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise, while Rubin sits like Buddah in a 10-foot cell, an innocent man in a living hell.”



I don’t know, man, but I can picture a lot of schnooks with really nicely groomed hair in coats and ties, all voting to give lots of bread to their friends who don’t need it and paraphrasing this immortal quote from “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre:”

“Health care? You don’t need no stinking health care.”

Oh, wow, is this quote apropos in these times:

“A lady who is willing to stand up for herself has a dignity that will take her a long way.”

Kate Alcott, “The Dressmaker”

Ah, what a nice thought, and wouldn’t it be nice if it were true? But women who stand up for themselves often tick off men who hold power. Still, gotta keep doing it.

My cat is in a stare-down contest with a black capped chickadee that likes to use the bird feeder right outside the kitchen window. The cat sits on the bench by the window and stares and stares while the bird eats and eats and the bird now and then takes a look at the cat and then goes back to eating, and I can imagine how annoyed this makes the cat, because birds are supposed to be afraid of cats.

She likes to watch the tufted titmouse (mice? es?) too and the juncos. She’s shown no interest in the blue jays or the occasional red headed woodpecker. She’s probably afraid of the jays and that big woodpecker.

I am.

I was reading a novel about a bookstore and in it, someone applying for a job was asked what book she would recommend to a customer, and I started thinking about how I would answer that and came up with two books:

“A Week in Winter” by Maeve Binchy and … “The Little French Bistro” by Nina George.

They are the most hopeful books I’ve read and, at this time in our history, when hope seems at a premium, reading them will do one much good, I think. Hope.

Last week I was swimming at Hampshire Hills early on Thursday morning, and the pool water was 76 degrees. This is inside, friends. Lifeguard Sarah saw me coming and gave me a look of pity. She knows what a wimp I am, how anything below 80 has me feeling just so terribly sorry for myself and how, when the temperature hits 82, I’m ecstatic while all the other swimmers think it’s far too warm.

But, friends, 76 is cold. Really. It felt like the water in Goss Park in Wilton in July. Goss Park doesn’t warm up until mid-August; then it closes two weeks later.

And I dare anyone to swim Goss Park laps the first weekend it opens – late June. Try it. I did. It took about six hours, a shower, lots of coffee and a wee bit of that made of potatoes to finally warm me up.

As I was leaving HH that Thursday, Sarah (or is it Sara?), said, “You looked a bit uncomfortable in there.”

Sarah (or is it Sara?), a very nice young lady, had just made the understatement of the swimming year.

As I was leaving, Gina on the front desk was, I think, checking to see if I had turned blue.

I guess I should bake them some muffins.