Adel, the best cat that ever was

Bad: Adel had to have his lungs drained today. Worse: The vet is 99% certain he has wet FIP. Worst: It is a fatal prognosis. There are two versions of FIP, a wet version and a dry. They are testing the fluid to confirm the diagnosis. The former, which they think he has, kills in under a month once it's activated. If it is the correct verdict, then our lovely kitten was born genetically predisposed towards having a common cat germ twist inside him, like HIV into AIDS. In most cats, it's nothing, completely harmless, but in 1 in 5000 cats, it's deadly. And it seems he and his white furred brother might be on the unlucky side of that equation. We can't help but hope for a misdiagnoses, but it seems unlikely, and it's probable that their brother Schprot has it, too, as he has come down with some similar symptoms. (The tabby siblings should be fine, as we suspect a different father). TLDR: Our hearts are crushed. Time with Adel is very limited and our greatest priority. If you want to come love on him, the time is now.

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Our perfect cat, Adel, is dying. He’s only five months old. The thing that is killing him is beyond our power to cure; an immuno-disease called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (or FIP for short) that will slowly crush his lungs with 40cc of fluid in his ribcage a day until he can no longer breathe. In order to save him from this slow, painful, panicky end, we will have to have him put down.

I have never experienced this type of wrenching pain. He curls up with us in the nest of pillows we’ve created on the living room floor, purring madly, happy that we’re with him, happy that we’re together. He traps my hand against his belly with his paws and I leave it there for two hours without daring to move. He wraps his tail around my ankle like a monkey’s prehensile tail and I choke back a sob. Alexandre is not faring better. We are both working from home this week and constantly breaking down into tears. It is all so, so hard. Our little cat transformed us from a couple into a family, the three of us a unit of proof against the world’s pains.

I want so much from this little cat. I want to wake up with him on my face, doing happy back flips against it, while I want to sleep a half hour longer. I want the games of fetch every morning to continue, his joy at chasing the ball contagious, making every day better as he returned it for me to throw again. I want to see how big he would be as an adult, how long and sleek his body, how improbable the length of him against me, remembering how he used to fit in the palm of a single hand. I want to take him on road-trips and offer him strange food that he will refuse and walk him through new cities in the crook of my arm, his favourite place in all the world. I want impossible things. I want him to get better. I want a future that I’ve never had and now never will.

Goodbye Stephen Elliott: best cook, best smile, best father.


Stephen Elliott, the closest thing I ever had to an adopted father, passed away on the morning of September 1st.

Stephen, Tim

I was at Burning Man, so could not be bedside. I also missed his memorial. Yesterday would have been his 67th birthday. I do not feel guilt or regret, only grief.

Untitled Untitled

It was a privilege to know him and to receive a small part of his generosity, cleverness, and joy. Somewhere there is a video of him playing Spanish guitar at one of my birthday parties, as pictured above, but that doesn’t capture his vivaciousness or his overwhelming wonderful everything. They don’t make them like they used to. He was quality and charm and grace personified, as well as the best sort of sly English wit. I don’t know what else to say, except that he was loved, and is loved, and will always be so in my heart. My sympathies and condolences to everyone else currently grieving. He was prolific with his care, there are so many of us who will forever miss him, and we are all worse off for the loss.


two lost souls in a fish bowl

I just spent the weekend working from one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It’s an olive grove in Southern California, lit at night only by candles, fire, and fairy lights, with music playing and clever people around white tables. Thirty-five hackers, their partners, their children, and me. Total number: just under sixty. Almost everyone wears black. Almost everyone has a custom flask. I’m probably the only person present who doesn’t own a t-shirt.

William Blake said that there is the land of the living and the land of the dead and the only bridge between them is love. The only survival. The only meaning.

I am relatively new to this particular tribe, but I am loved enough to pass. They drink and they swear and make fun of me for having to work while on vacation. I reply that my office is too pretty to possibly complain about and that seems to settle the topic.

The sounds here are different than I’m accustomed to, but I like it. I love how twisted the trees are, the delicate sounds of their leaves in the breeze. There are horses at the ranch next store and someone, somewhere, unmistakably has peacocks.

The olive grove is in the middle of the drought blighted lands, but where we are is green and luscious. There’s natural ground water here that makes for two little ponds, a small lake, and easy irrigation. Plus, however unlikely, it has rained every afternoon with a small roll of thunder and casual damp that crawls slowly over us during what otherwise would be the hottest part of the day. The light when that happens is unspeakably beautiful. I miss storms with passion like I miss my heart. Both losses ache inside of me.

We sit in camp chairs, circles of humming conversation chasing the shade during the day or around bonfires at night. We’ve been smoking an entire pig every night in a cement brick oven made for the purpose and making bonfires too big to jump over with the left over wood. (The pigs were progressively more delicious. We cut them open at midnight and sliced cubes of pork sushi out with combat knives and ate them with our fingers.)

Today some of us pulled a kitten from the wild litter of seven that’s underneath the robin’s egg blue vintage car that’s slowly rusting out next to the outdoor bar. It’s orange and soft and impossibly fluffy and I’m looking forward to visiting it later in Seattle. If I could have found other people to adopt the rest, I would have taken jacks from people’s trunks to lift up the car and pull out the entire litter. A silver lining looking for a cloud. Solving for fuffle.

With Andrew gone, it’s time to pick up the slack he’s left behind.

by Czeslaw Milosz

—When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.
What never added up will add up,
What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.

—And if there is no lining to the world?
If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,
But just a thrush on the branch? If night and day
Make no sense following each other?
And on this earth there is nothing except this earth?

—Even if that is so, there will remain
A word wakened by lips that perish,
A tireless messenger who runs and runs
Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,
And calls out, protests, screams.


Andrew was barely in his forties, an acting father of three, a husband, a lover, and, as he would say, “all of the things”! Essential to at least three of my neighborhood’s core communities, he was a precious friend I never imagined doing without. He fell suddenly, an aneurysm or a stroke, the sort of death that unfurls its red flag without warning. I could list facts: his love of pirate clothing, his irrepressible fever for wordplay, his drawings, his games, the entire shelf of books on Rome that served as the incubator for a project that will never blossom from its imaginary blueprint seed. None of it will properly convey who he was, what sort of life he created to inhabit and to share, so the narrative that I have decided upon is to declare him the laughing buddha, the zen creature without public ego who didn’t give in to the idea that we should care what strangers think of us. Monks in saffron robes suffer on mountain tops while he found illumination in the way dice moved over a table, the way foam wrapped sticks bounced off other foam wrapped sticks, and a thousand other nerdy occupations I have never really understood but didn’t need to in order to appreciate him and his glee. We bonded over shiny things, science, dancing, and the regular delights of mangled days. All of that, years of it, but I cannot convey the map of his nation’s borders. He was smart and he was good and we miss him. Everything else is set dressing.

It doesn’t seem so long ago since I last ran into him on Commercial Drive, floppy hat, massive cloak, somewhere probably a drum. The man wore tutus and face-paint as commonly as other people wear socks. He was easy to spot. Was, not is. I write that word and lose my courage. It doesn’t seem long because it wasn’t, yet it will never happen again.

I offered to take his picture before he was cremated, something for the family, something for us, an image to represent the man we all loved. I didn’t even think about it, it was as natural as offering my hand to someone sitting on the ground, and his widow said yes and thank you and we agreed. This left me standing by his coffin at the crematorium two hours before the service, my friend Jay acting as a driver and a voice activated light stand, kit in hand and a bag full of expensive lenses I had never used before.

Though it was surreal, I was fine until I bumped the coffin, reflexively apologizing to his cold face, and when I touched him, brushing hair to cover some of the bruising that the make-up didn’t cover. Excepting those moments, I had a skill set to wield, he could have been made of spring flowers, a still life empty of residual heat. He has too obviously absent, an unmanned puppet, only a former body of work, still bones, still skin. An object encased in love and lighting problems to solve.

Fast forward, I stood with his family, perhaps the only one present who wasn’t tied to him through marriage or blood, the last of the last, in the final moments before he was taken away and sublimated into shimmering air molecules and carbon. Tillie couldn’t be there, but AJ read out a note from her, a prayer for the living who stood in a circle around Andrew’s abandoned body. I watched everyone, I watched and I ached and part of me died, and I made my own strident promises: May we remember this and resolve not to let it go. May we forever refuse to stand still.


There’s something about the smell of the place that clings to my skin. Perhaps it’s a disinfectant or the lotion she rubs on her skin. Possibly a mix of them both. Either way, it has become the scent of her dying and it won’t let me sleep. As soon as I am home, I step into the shower to rinse it off, knowing that I am sluicing her touch from my body as well and uncertain if it should feel like a betrayal.

Her name isn’t one I mention here. We’re unrelated by DNA. Until recently, for almost a decade, I only saw her on Jewish holidays. The entire story is more complicated, a byzantine web of different familial relationships, but the truth remains, and it all boils down to this one simple fact: My mother is dying.

She has severe young onset Parkinson’s and she is not going to improve. She is not going to rally. She is not going to be saved by a miracle, a drug, or by therapy. It is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system that currently does not have a known cause or cure and kills her brain cells in certain types of pathways, destroying her body from the inside. Her symptoms are typical and so is the progress of the disease. The medication they have her on at the care home help, but they are gradually becoming ineffective. Other than her body failing, her symptoms include memory loss, inability to focus or stay present, mild paranoia, depression, and slight dementia. There is no recovery. Nothing about this will get better. It will not “be okay”. Her failure is inevitable.

I try to visit at least once a week. I try to always bring some kind of treat. (Otherwise, the chances are high that she might not eat that day). I bring flowers and movies on a memory stick. I bring printed out pictures of her loved ones that I tape to the wall where she can see them from her bed. I offer her my service in any way I can. I joke that she has won a life-time supply of chocolate, now that the end of her life is close enough that I can finally afford to guarantee such a magnificent promise.

We lie in her bed together and she snuggles up to my body the way I used to press into hers when I was five. Her body has wasted away so much that she barely has any substance at all, so there are no problems fitting both of us in her hospital style bed. She is so fragile, it is hard to believe. I could probably carry her a mile in my arms. Instead I support her shaking limbs and brush shea butter onto her skin with my fingers and try not to count her vertebrae. I love her so, so much.

She has other daughters, but I am special in that I am a bridge, the physical avatar and “child” of her relationship with my godmother, her best friend of over 30 years. My visits ground her as very little does. And I touch her constantly. I can’t not. Even when I sit on the floor at her feet, we twine ankles, we perpetually hold hands.

We discuss everything. About when I was a child, about when she was a child, our loves, our relationships, our disasters, but also activism, feminism, poetry, technology, sociology, history, literature, religion, psychology, education, and nanotech. When she is present, she is clear, intelligent, and sharp. Her life has been endlessly inspiring, one of bravery and protests and marches and academia and marathons and that spark still exists sometimes as light in her eyes. The end of her life, she says, is the one adventure she knows she will get right.

Yet she is one of the only people alive who has known my life. She is one of the very few human beings on the planet that I know actually loves me. And she is about to die. I got the phone-call from the care home today. It is going to be very, very soon.

There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Visiting her is one of them, even as it breaks me. Even as I cry every time I leave. Even as I still don’t know how to say goodbye.

a conversation with my five year old self

A Conversation With My 12 Year Old Self: 20th Anniversary Edition

Something I have never told anyone: I have a cassette that I recorded when I was five or six years old on my mother’s portable tape-deck. It starts off very sweetly with a terrible, warbling little song I was obviously making up on the spot about how completely, blisteringly great it would be to live in an edible country, where I could eat any time I wanted. I haven’t listened to it in a very long time, but I seem to remember that the ground was made of chocolate, butterflies were made of fried chicken, and all my imaginary trees grew both fruit and candy. Honestly, the song is freakishly adorable. You can practically hear how ash blonde and wide-eyed I was, even if maybe I was a bit too hungry. Then the shouting begins. It’s my delusional father in the background, obviously just in the next room, loud, cruel, and toxic. It gets louder and louder as the recording continues. And I don’t even seem to notice. I wonder, listening as an adult, if the door between the rooms was even closed. Memory says it probably wasn’t. My twee little song continues. Eventually the shouting leads to sounds of violence. I treat it like wallpaper. Something smashes, then, worse, the violence gets quieter, a lot more personal. My father is still loud, but my mother barely makes any sound at all. They might as well be birds singing. I still pay no attention. In fact, I don’t acknowledge them at all until the very end of the recording, which I can barely get to anymore, when I say, cheerful as anything, “Sorry, Me! I have to go. My mommy’s hurt. I hope you like this later! Bye bye!”

box made in italy, music made in switzerland

Victoria Victoria Victoria

Promotional headshots for my mother, electronic multimedia artist Victoria Gibson, for the Guelph Nuit Blanche 2011!

My mother brought me a small, wooden jewelry box yesterday. It’s a beautiful thing, laquered marquetry and celadon tinted birdseye maple, as finely crafted as an expensive guitar. Inside is a music box mechanism, one of those spring-wound revolving cylinders, that plays Impossible, a song hauntingly familiar yet difficult to place, (always the mark of a classic). I adore it. I am a sucker for music box mechanisms. I used to regularly carry them, the manual kind that you place on a surface and wind by hand to control the rotation of the barrel, hey jude, canon in d, as time goes by, until the constant wear against the other things in my pockets would break the metal keys off the comb. I love how clever they are, how much clockwork goes into them, how very simple yet complex they can be, how much strange and wonderful history they contain, the first mechanical music, the basis of the first programming, the melodic birth of the computer. Now there is a small graveyard of them in my room, each one flawed in some essential way, each one with a snapped off spot in the melody, a haunting gap where a remembered note should play, as perfect as a zen garden.

Really she came over for a photoshoot, the box was a bonus, something she bought me years ago, but lost in her house until recently. Rather than cash, she’s paying me in Burning Man gear, a good sleeping bag, two 5L water jugs, and a big, hefty cooler, which is completely fantastic. Also, due to a mix-up last year, Lung has a spare tent I can use, and Tony’s offering to split a bunch of our left over supplies from last year. Crowd-sourcing for the win! Now I need a ride, a place to camp, a bedroll, and to figure out a week’s worth of food, sugary electrolytes, and wet wipes, all on a budget of close to zero. Andrew’s bet twenty bucks I can pull it off. Screw being reasonable, I’m not going to let him down.

if there’s any other way

Talked to the Irish Embassy today. They’re going to send me the appropriate affidavit tomorrow. Once that’s filled out and the paper records have arrived from the Holmes clan, I can apply. The only drawback is that the current application process time is six months. This wouldn’t cause concern except that it seems I also have to send them my passport as part of the Foreign Births Registration package, which would trap me in the country.

On the other hand, it turns out moving to Montreal could be significantly less risky than previously thought, as apparently there’s a provincially subsidized language program which might pay me a small stipend to learn french, easing the transition as well as teaching me a useful new skill. Also, more locally, I may have hit upon some small crowd-sourced education funding, as long as the classes are super cheap, (in the couple of hundred dollar range), and apparently the unemployment office will now pay to upgrade my First Aid certification.