If I could talk to the animals (oh wait, I do that)

Yes, I talk to animals. I can’t say that they listen to or understand me, and they don’t talk back to me in a language that is clear, like with Doctor John Dolittle in the children’s books from the 1920s by civil engineer Hugh Lofting (born in 1886 in Maidenhead, Berkshire, England).

hugh lofting
Hugh Lofting

Lofting died in 1947, so any Doctor Dolittle shenanigans after that point are not his fault. The original stories are set in Victorian England in the fictional village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, a place I wanted desperately to live when I read my mother’s old copies of the books in the 1960s. To tell the truth, I still want to live there.

I’ve written about perfect moments.  In  my memories, reading Doctor Dolittle as a child, curled up in my pajamas in the comfy chair with the nubby green upholstery, the sun shining through a window of the den on a cold day and dust just visible floating in the stream of sunlight, smelling the old-paper smell of the books my mother had also read as a child–that’s a perfect moment.

books

 

The movie version I am familiar with is the 1967 musical with Rex Harrison as the doctor, and also starring Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley, and Richard Attenborough.

 

movie poster 1967.jpg

 

It was, surprisingly in retrospect, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture that year, and won the Oscars for Best Original Song (for Talk to the Animals) and Best Original Effects. Of course, I at age 6, loved the movie, but I don’t think it was actually very good. I mostly remember Anthony Newley singing (not necessarily in a good way) and the voyage in the Giant Pink Sea Snail.

 

 

It never occured to me as a child to ask why, if the Giant Pink Sea Snail is a living creature, it has no insides and the humans can live in its (his? her?) hollow shell without problems. When you are 6 you go with your imagination and don’t question these things.

 

I have never seen the Eddie Murphy version of Doctor Dolittle (1998) and have no intention of ever seeing it. Sorry, Mr. Murphy, but in my mind Doctor Dolittle will always be English, Victorian, and Rex Harrison-ish, although I applaud the concept of introducing said doctor to a new generation and a diverse audience. Plus, I don’t think fart jokes are all that funny and just have no place in my world of Doctor Dolittle and Puddleby-on-the Marsh. And neither does a PG rating.

drdolittle

 

But as usual I digress. I talk to the animals. Frequently. And I talk for them. I have voices I use for the animals who live with me, and they often are very sassy when speaking through me. We sing, too. Each animal has a story and a song, and there are songs that go with different ocassions, like meals and bedtime.

This version of Talk to the Animals by Sammy Davis Jr. makes me happy in some way I can’t explain. Sammy always reminds me of my mother’s second husband, Van, who was extremely thin and liked to dance and had a style a lot like Sammy’s when he was in happy drunk mode. That was less frequent than mean drunk mode, but we don’t need to go into that here.

 

And before you think you need to have me committed, let me tell you that I know I am not alone in the world. I know very rational people who sing and talk to animals, and have voices and special songs assigned to particular animals. Maybe it’s a little quirky, but it’s fun and harmless. I have no illusions that the animals are actually listening to, understanding, or responding to me. I think my marbles are all still with me.

 

 

Each of my resident companion animals has a special song. For Sara, it’s obviously Sara Smile (1976) by Hall and Oates. I’ve had Sara (brown tabby) since she was a newborn kitten, and I sang that to her when I bottle-fed her. She’s 19 years old now, and it’s still her song. Her brother Ben (orange tabby), who passed away at 15, was subjected to me singing the Michael Jackson song Ben from the horror movie Ben (1971), sequel to Willard. Yes, it’s about a rat, but it’s still a good song. I’ll spare you my singing and go right to the sources.

 

 

Misty, who I sometimes call Mystical, gets to hear me warble on with The Beatle’s song Magical Mystery Tour (1967) with the lyrics changed to “She’s the magical mystical cat, she’s going to eat your face…” She won’t really eat your face, but she on the moody side, shall we say.

Misty

Here is the song performed by Sir Paul McCartney:

 

Alternatively, Misty also gets Windy, the 1967 hit by The Association, alltered to “Everyone knows it’s Misty…And Misty has stormy eyes…”

 

Marble, lively young lad, I decided gets the the old Ballad of Davy Crockett (1955), with the line changed to “Marby, Marby Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier”. It suits him, can’t explain why. I won’t make you listen to it. You’re welcome.

 

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Davy_Crockett,_King_of_the_Wild_Frontier_FilmPoster

 

Einstein is the odd one out, the only dog. He feels misunderstood and put upon by all of the cat activity in the house. Middle child syndrome, in a way. I don’t know why I started singing Petula Clark’s Downtown (1964) to him. Maybe because it’s fun to say Einstein to the “downtown” spots, and I make the main line “Einstein, everyone’s waiting for Einstein…” And he does look a little like Petula Clark, now that I think about it.

Einstein

 

And then we have songs to mark times of day. From A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) comes Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Time is Here, changed to “Breakfast time is here” or “Dinner time is here”, depending. Breakfast can also be signified by changing It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (1951) to “It’s beginning to look a lot like breakfast”.

 

I won’t go into all of the songs I’ve sung to different foster kittens. But I could use suggestions for foster #56, Dapper. He’s a very affectionate 1-year old boy. I’ve been calling him Dapper Dan in honor of the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000) and George Clooney’s character Ulysses Everett McGill’s obssession with Dapper Dan hair pomade.

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I’ll have to listen to the movie soundtrack and pick out a song. They do sing You Are My Sunshine in the movie. Sounds like I’ve found a winner!

 

Peace and hugs, and keep singing! I’ll be out there looking for that magical place, Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. Maybe I’ll see you there.

puddleby-on-the-marsh-1

Returning to School in My 50s, or, Perfecting the Art of Procrastination

Preface: I should be writing an assignment on peer reviewed journals and open access publishing, but this is more fun. I fell asleep doing my school reading on the couch last night, and I hoped I’d wake up full of academic insight but instead I woke up thinking, I’ll do a blog post on going back to school!

For those of you who know me personally, I’ve always been a bit of a neat freak. My television hero for many years was Mr. Monk, played in the best persnickety way by Tony Shaloub.

monk

Towels had to hung a certain way, the bed made just so every morning, laundry folded while it was still warm, never a dish left in the kitchen sink. News flash: between working full time, going to school full time, volunteering at the East Bay SPCA, and having a bathroom full of foster kittens, I don’t have time to be Mr. Monk anymore!

good morning

My favorite appliance used to be the television set in the den; now it’s the coffee machine in the kitchen.

television coffee

I still watch television, but I am choosier about what I watch. Chopped and Ted Allen, I love you, but what else can you put in a mystery box that I haven’t seen already? And Rick Castle, I think I’m done with you and Kate Beckett. When you disappeared for 3 months on the way to your wedding–that was jumping the proverbial shark for me.

Chopped Castle

As Heidi Klum says, one day you’re in, one day you’re out. Heidi, you and Tim Gunn are in. I can’t give up Project Runway. And Gordon Ramsay, you might be as mean as they come, but I am addicted to you. Plus you added Christina Tosi to the MasterChef host crew, and a woman who kicks ass in the pastry kitchen is right up my alley.

Project-Runway-Bridal

The home cooks will need to create an elevated dish using peanut butter and jelly.

I got so involved in getting my study area organized Saturday night that I completely FORGOT that I had a ticket to the Hall and Oates concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. Daryl and John, I have not outgrown you, I just have a very busy life right now. I’ll be there next time!

Hall and Oates The_Greek_Theatre_Berkeley_Sign Greek

I used to take the time to put in my contacts and make sure I looked nice before I left home in the morning. Now, as long as I am wearing clothes and have coffee, who cares?

looking good today

If there were books left piled in the kitchen (rarely), they were about food and cooking. Now there is always a pile of reading, nothing to do with food or cooking either one! And the stack of books by the bed is going to get dusty before I get to them.

cookbooks texts papers bedside

Unheard of just a month ago, there are two loads of laundry that have been waiting days for folding. And my poor refrigerator is going to starve. For a fledgling vegan, I don’t have many fruits or vegetables on hand! But the pets have food, more important.

laundry refrigerator

So, why am I doing this whole school thing at this point in my life? Because it’s the most excited I’ve felt about anything in a long time. I finally found something, Humane Education through Saybrook University, that I am passionate about and maybe it will turn into a way that I can make a little bit of difference in the world. I feel inspired and fulfilled, feelings I don’t really get at work these days but feelings that I think we all deserve to have. And now on to that assignment on open access publishing…