Su Lum: I’m running out of excuses
May 14, 2002
A few nights ago I was headed into the computer room when there was a huge CRASH behind me. It was so loud that my first thought was that I had pulled so hard on the tether – which gets caught on sneakers, dog dishes and dachshunds – that I had yanked over my big mother liquid oxygen tank.
I rushed to the living room, where the tank was bubbling away as usual, checked the street to see that no one had driven into and knocked down my fence, noted that Trudy and Sam (whom I’m dachshund-sitting) were on the bed with their heads in periscope position, so I knew I hadn’t imagined it.
If it were winter, I would have thought a sizable block of ice had fallen off the roof.
The next morning as I was puttering around the house getting dressed, washing my hair, etc., I had a nagging feeling that I needed to get a hanging plant or something for the kitchen because it just looked kind of BARE all of a sudden.
When I run out of oxygen, which I do with embarrassing regularity, it takes me forever to figure it out. My excuse has always been that running out of oxygen makes me so stupid that I can’t make the connection between, “Gee, I feel funny,” to “Gee, maybe I’m out of OXYGEN.”
This convenient theory was severely rocked when, well oxygenated, I failed to make the connection between the crash and the feeling that the kitchen looked bare, to the logical conclusion that perhaps something was MISSING in the kitchen.
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Hours later, tossing a paper towel into the trash can, I was horrified to find the evidence on the floor between the table and the heater. What had fallen, and what was missing, was my favorite work of art: a black cat, painted on a 2-1/2-foot, square piece of plywood, that has hung on the only bare wall of my kitchen since 1972!
I LOVE that cat. I got it at my first garage sale in Aspen in the summer of 1964. It is primitive and dark, one-dimensional. The cat, which takes up the whole board, is standing sideways, but its head is turned to face the viewer. The expression on the cat’s face is somewhat ferocious, but it is not sinister. Golden spots on its coat could be paw prints, or flowers. Flaws in the wood suggest whiskers.
Paula Stardoj and Barbara Auran were holding the sale; Barbara had painted the picture. The price was $5, and $5 was a lot to spend on frivolity in Aspen back in 1964, when we’d just arrived broke, Burt’s $100/week teaching salary wouldn’t kick in until fall, and we were being gouged for $75/month for a one-bedroom apartment in Woody Creek.
I looked longingly at the cat; the cat looked back at me. I reluctantly turned away.
The next day Barbara Auran gave me the cat painting. She said she’d rather it went to a loving owner than to make $5 on it. I count it among my most precious gifts.
That I went around rum-tumming, thinking I needed a plant, instead of noticing that the cat picture was missing, is pretty scary. Hopefully, I’ll have forgotten about it by tomorrow.
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