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DSC0440216 years ago we adopted a kitten from the SPCA in North Hollywood. She was old for a rescue kitten, having lived in the wild for several weeks before being found and taken in. Because of this, she was ‘semi-feral’ when we brought her home.

We decided to call her Mab, after the queen of the fairies talked about by Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet. Throughout her life  we’d call her Mab, Mabby, Queen Mab, Mabita, Mabikins, Scaredy Cat, and the Princess with the Peach Toe.

As soon as we opened her carrier at our house, she ran under the bed. We thought she had had a rough few days, and figured we’d let her come out and introduce herself to us when she realized we weren’t going to eat her.

12 years later, she still thought we were going to eat her. She spent most of her time under the couch or under the bed (at least when we were home), and would scramble away when we got too close.  She loved to snuggle with our big dumb tabby, Mojo, but thought we were ogres.

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(Sometime in that first 12 years we had a shaman for a neighbor. He thought she had lost some part of her soul when she was feral, and that’s why she was scared all the time.)

Four years ago we moved to New Zealand. Cece was part of a 6-month competitive class at vet school, so we didn’t want to bring the cats over if we didn’t make it through. So Mab, Mojo, and Gordito went to live with Cece’s sister and bro-in-law Dana & Steve for that six months.

Once Cece was accepted into the full vet school, it took us three months to arrange to fly them over and put them through quarantine.

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I’m not sure what happened throughout that time, but after a few weeks of normal under-bed behavior, Mab seemed to find her courage in New Zealand. At first she’d only come snuggle with us when we were flat on our backs in bed, and would scramble away as soon as we sat up.  But soon she’d hop up on the couch with us, and would allow us to pet her when she was in her cat tree by the window.

Maybe the shaman was right. Maybe she had lost part of her soul, and it somehow returned to her in New Zealand.

In any case, if Mab has a soul — broken or otherwise — it has now left her body.  Three months ago we learned that she was in renal failure. We put her on special food to slow her decline, but we knew the end was near.  Over the last few weeks she has been quickly losing weight and getting painful urinary tract infections because her kidneys weren’t concentrating her urine enough to kill any germs in her plumbing. In the last few days she had started staggering and yowling. Cece got a dose of painkillers, hoping it was a temporary pain, but she kept getting worse. When she was doped up she’d sit on our laps and purr, but we couldn’t keep her stoned forever.

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Yesterday was a public holiday, and the vet clinics were all closed. So we made an appointment for 8:30 this morning to let her go. None of us got much sleep last night.

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This morning we gave her the last dose of painkillers and sat with her for an hour, waiting for the appointment time to come. She sat quietly, breathing slowly and occasionally purring. She didn’t know why we were crying.

When we got to the clinic, they quickly put us in a private room so we could have a few minutes with her.  The vet (another graduate of Massey, where Cece is going) was kind and gentle with us. She put a catheter into Mab’s vein, asked if we wanted to continue, and slowly injected her with a cocktail that would gently make her unconscious and then stop her heart.

It only took a few seconds. She didn’t try to fight it. And now she’s gone.

I was sick all yesterday and have a hell of a lot of work to do today, but I’m having trouble concentrating. My thoughts keep turning to our scaredy cat, our princess with the peach toe. Our Mab.

She wouldn’t have the kind of existential questions that plague humans at times like these. In that I kind of envy her.

I don’t know if there’s a Heaven for cats. I kind of doubt it.  But I do know that I miss her and some part of me hopes that some part of her continues to exist.

Goodbye Mab. My lap will be colder without you.

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I’m a little late to post this, but a couple weeks ago I was one of the tutors of a contact course at Massey called Creative Processes.

I don’t think we use the same terminology in the States, but I haven’t been at a university except to get drunk at Homecoming for 15 years. A ‘contact course’ is where you learn from home for most of the semester, and then you come in to school for one week at the end.

And in the case of Creative Processes, that one week was full of 14-hour days. There were two days of seminars and exercises, then three days in which the students had to choose a creative medium (writing, theater, dance, music, or film), break into teams, and create a collaborative piece of art.

For those student who chose film, it was like doing a 48-hour film competition. For the four of us who tutored film, it was like doing a 48-hour film competition and being on 5 different teams.

It was awesome.

I didn’t take many pictures because I was busy not dying, but here are a few I snapped here and there…

Auckland filmmaker Jon Waters (cool name for a filmmaker, huh?) giving a primer on how a camera works.

On location

The students did everything - write, produce, direct, act, edit, etc. ... with a little bit of help from us tutors

When shooting in New Zealand, there's an important piece of safety equipment called an umbrella

Not only did they have to learn the basics of Final Cut, they had to learn the basics of editing in the first place

Then came the final performance. There were 15 teams all told, with the film scattered throughout. They were all surprisingly good for first-time filmmakers, and the students ended the week exhausted but happy. Some of them had never dared to think of themselves as being creative people, and we proved them wrong.

Angie Farrow at Massey does this course every year, and I hope she invites me back for the next one. It’s a great way for cynical and jaded professionals like me to recharge our creative batteries by being around people who haven’t yet learned what’s impossible.

Look Ma, I’m famous!

Massey University’s new Artist in Residence

(I took that pic against the backdrop of our guest mattress. Cece thinks the photo is stretched sidewise. I think that’s just my face.)

Massey University, the Palmerston North City Council, and the Square Edge artist collective have teamed up to create an artist residency, designed to get an artist away from the hustle and bustle of their regular lives for three months to allow them to do their art. They do three residencies a year – a fine artist, a novelist or poet, and a film/media type like me. Each gets 3 months’ residency, with a stipend, an office on campus, and an apartment in town.

(I told Cece that I should keep the apartment just in case I needed to do some one-on-ones with comely young coeds, but she didn’t appreciate my willingness to help the university. So, no apartment. Sorry, coeds.)

I originally heard about the residency because they film/media artist in residence last year was Sally Tran, the director of the movie I wrote this year. If she hadn’t had the residence, we never would have gotten to know each other and I wouldn’t have been asked to work on her movie.

They usually post the opening for the residency on websites for the creative community like The Big Idea, but for this one they shoulder-tapped a few people and asked us to submit applications.

So now I have three months to do my “art” as soon as I figure out what that is. I want to write a spec script because I haven’t written something of my own for a while, but I feel like the ideas I have don’t feel “worthy” enough of the title Artist in Residence.  I feel like my usual lesbians and exploding helicopters aren’t going to be enough.

…But maybe lesbians, exploding helicopters and ZOMBIES!  Hmmm…

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