17 April 2018

The Mansion: Happy 64th Anniversary, Winnie

By: Jon Katz

Happy 64th Anniversary, Winnie

A few days ago, Winnie, a resident at the Mansion Assisted Care Facility in Cambridge, asked me if I might sell her one of my books. She has read most of them, she said, and enjoyed them, but she hasn't read any of the newer ones. I brought her a copy of Second Chance Dog, and she had never heard of Frieda and was excited about the book.

Winnie looked a bit down to me, I asked her if she was all right. She said it was her wedding anniversary, she said, and my book was a welcome present.

i asked how long she had been married, and she smiled at me, and said "64 years." I asked about her husband, and she said he still lives at the farm where they have spent most of their lives together.

"I've asked him if he would want to come her and live, and he says no," she said, "He said he would rather die than come here." Winnie practices acceptance of life and respect for it, as do I, but I could she felt a little down and Red and I stayed for awhile and spoke with her.

She said her children were taking her and her husband out to dinner at a local Italian restaurant to celebrate their 64 wedding anniversary, She was looking forward to that. I'm glad I picked today to bring her her book.

Happy Anniversary, Winnie. If you care to write Winnie or send her anniversary wishes, you can write her c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

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The Mansion: A Gift For Ruth And Ken

By: Jon Katz

A Gift For Ruth And Ken

The Mansion residents love to be photographed, I think for some it is a recognition that they matter, an acknowledgement of their sometimes battered sense of identity and worth.

Ruth began asking me to take a picture of her and Ken, they have been married a long time and are inseparable, around the time her surgery was scheduled for August.

There was an urgency to the photo that I recognized, I've seen it before, people want a record of themselves and their loved ones at certain times. I don't ever ask the residents for medical details they sometimes offer them and sometimes take it for granted that I know.

At the Mansion, time has a different meaning, and I always look to see if I can sense the urgency of one request or another. Wayne came to me today and asked if I could get a stuffed dog for him, and one for Tia, a staffer with a small child. He wants to make sure her kid has a gift.

That gift is important, but not urgent (I have the dogs). I think Ruth's was urgent.

Since the staff is not allowed to share medical information with me, as a volunteer, I often don't know, although it eventually becomes clear. So I asked the printer of my photographs to print a photo of these two that I took last week. We had it framed and I brought it to the Mansion today.

Ruth and I have a great connection, she is direct and always hopeful. We have already been through some hard times together.

Ruth was very happy to get it, we did talk about the new clothes she might need after her surgery, I told her I was on it.  Ruth always offers to pay me back when her Social Security check comes but I told her we have an Army of Good to help her and we don't need any payment.

I love seeing my photography used in this way. Ruth called Lucas, the maintenance supervisor and asked him if he would hang the photo over their bed and he went right off to do it.

I smile every time I think of it.

You can write to Ruth and Ken c/o The Mansion, 11 S.Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. Ruth is always ready to smile, Ken too.


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Willa Cather Girl

By: Jon Katz

Willa Cather Girl

Another in my Willa Cather Girl photo series.

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Confessions Of Mystery Client: Michael Cohen, Stormy, Me, My Little Twanger.

By: Jon Katz

Confessions Of Mystery Client: The Bedlam Farm Animals Association

It was in the middle of the night that I leaned over in bed and whispered my great secret into the ear of my wife. She was snoring lightly and having one of her strange dreams, I think.

In the latest one, she is off chanting in the woods, hugging trees and smiling where rabbits dance in the moonlight, barn cats turn into winged fairies, and songbirds turn into butterflies.

I had been watching the news from New York, and it was now or never. It had come out. I was scared.

"Honey," I whispered, "I have something to tell you, it's important."

She sighed and mumbled, "did you pour bleach into the colored clothes wash again, or drop your Iphone into the toilet. I'll get it in the morning."

No, I said. This is a bit more serious.I decided to just blurt it out.

"I'm Mystery Client Number 4," I whispered, hoping she had dozed off again. "I'm the fourth client of Micheal Cohen. It's me, the President, that Republican National Committee guy paying for an abortion, and Sean Hannity. I have asked Mr. Cohen several times for legal advice. It was no big deal. It never rose to the level of a lawyer-client relationship."

And, I added quickly, "Stormy…er, no third-party was ever involved in our discussions."

Maria had not dozed off again, her eyes were wide open.

"What did you talk to Michael Cohen about?," she asked sitting up. Her eyes were very wide open.

"I wanted his advice about real estate," I said.

"Real estate?," she replied, reaching for the heavy lamp by the side of her bed. "Isn't he the guy who only represents  horny old white men who want to silence their mistresses? That's quite a specialty."

Oh, I said quickly, nothing like that, I wanted to talk about real estate, I said. '"What about real estate?," she asked. "We don't have any money…"

"Yes," I said quickly,"that's what he told me? Good advice, too.. We don't have any money to buy real estate."

Then what did you ask him?, she said, her voice rising.

"I asked him if we had any money…"

By now, Maria was sitting up and unplugging the lamp. She didn't seem persuaded. I remember the stories she told me about Sicilian women who learn their husbands are having affairs and go get a kitchen knife and chop their penises off.

"Look,' I said, "this is  the perfect lawyer for us. He doesn't take money from his clients, and uses his own money to pay off..er, negotiate with people. Most lawyers charge for their time! Don't you see that? We don't have any money to pay for lawyers either."

I suppose looking from afar, this might not make perfect sense to people, but it made perfect sense to me, and I was under some time pressure.

Most people only see the sweet, animal-loving, wood fairy side of Maria. They don't see the Sicilian- German side. I mumbled something about work, hopped out of bed, got dressed, backed out of the bedroom keeping an eye on Maria, and rushed out to the pasture to convene an emergency meeting of the Bedlam Farm Animals Association.

When she had a few minutes to think about it, things could get ugly.

My plan  was to be transparent, lie about everything, deny everything, and alert the farm animals to what was happening. I was going outside to talk to my base, as long as I had them, I was fine.

Red went ahead to prepare them, as he often did. I loved these farm rallies, they got my testosterone going, except for the donkeys, the animals adored me. To them, I was one big bale of hay.

When I got there, it all felt wrong. No cheering, no applause, no great and loud welcome.

Red was explaining to them somewhat defensively that I had done nothing  wrong,  he said I was the victim of a "Deep Farm" conspiracy. Certain elements of the farm were out to destroy me, they had never accepted me as a real farmer, Red explained. And they never would. But there was trouble in the Peaceable Kingdom.

The sheep had never forgiven me for bringing border collies to the farm, Lulu never forgave me for sending her away to Darryl Kuehne's farm for a year when I was cracking up, and the chickens hated me for shooting their rooster when he attacked Maria. And by now, they had heard the news too, Liam was a news junkie, he had a smart phone earphone in his ear all night

Bedlam Farm may have looked peaceful from the outside, but it was chaos on the inside, rife with backstabbing, leaking, political intrigue and lies. We all understood the importance of keeping this discord to ourselves, it would be very bad for the brand.

"It's true, we have never accepted Jon," I heard Lulu saying in her steely voice."That's because  he's not a real farmer," she brayed, stepping forward to put her ears up and glower at me.  Now she spoke to me. "You are unfit to lead a farm, you hide behind your blog and send your big Red Dog, your fixer to intimidate us. We'll, I'm not a sheep!"

"Hey," mumbled Izzy, the lead Romney" watch that stuff…."

Red got up close to Lulu, as close as he dared. "I will do anything for Jon, anything," he growled.

"I will mess you up. I will take every bit of hay you ever get near, I will come after Fanny and you and the chickens and anybody else that you possibly know. So I'm warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I'm going to do to you is going to be f——– disgusting, do you understand me?"

I turned to Red and whispered. "Hey, don't be quoting my lawyer, use your own words. And don't curse, the chickens don't like it."

The sheep were stunned, silent.

"Listen," I said, the rumors about me are all fake news, lies, an attack on our farm and way of life. You have nothing to complain about – the freshest water anywhere, the best hay in the world, the strongest fences, three different pastures. Stop whining."

On the other side of the pasture fence, there was a lot of cursing and noise.

Maria was up and awake now, perhaps listening to the news herself. There was no way I was going back into that farmhouse. I almost asked her why she couldn't be more like Melania, but I held my tongue, and probably saved it.

I heard the sound of things being thrown around in my office. The door to the farmhouse opened, and first my Froggy statute came flying out, then my scented candles, my incense sticks, my Kali Goddess statute, my big black Canon Camera, my Madonna figurine,  two lenses, the modem and some Canon batteries.

The sound was dreadful. And costly.

The sheep were nervous. Sheep hate confrontation.

Lulu put her ears and head down, she was ready to fight. She said she would not be intimidated by Red. She turned to me and looked me in the eye.

"Mr. Jon," she called me, (this was the title I gave myself on the farm),  "did you have an affair with Stormy  Daniels? You told us last month that you never cheated on Maria, that you did not have an affair with Stormy Daniels. Is that the truth? Is that what this is about? Is that why you  became a client of Mr. Cohen?"

Fanny stepped up and spoke up (damn those donkeys): "I mean, duh..he doesn't do real estate, he lives in a Trump Tower, he only does one thing."

Red growled again. "I will mess you up, Fanny," snarled Red.

Lulu snickered, as donkeys do. "You don't scare me Red boy, you're blind in one eye, have arthritis, Lyme disease, and four tick borne diseases. You're lucky you can lift your leg to pee. Go scare a sheep. You're nothing but a sycophant."

At this, the sheep stirred and looked at one another, and Zelda stepped forward.

"It's true, Old Boy, you're slowing down. Your threats don't carry a lot of weight around  here anymore. Go back over to the Mansion with the other old things and play some Bingo. Or I'll knock your  ass down again, like I did a few years ago."

Fate sensed that this meeting was not fun, she ran and hid behind the sheep. I saw the Barn Cats hiss at one another and slip away, I heard Flo tell Minnie: "this is so stupid. Let's go kill something…'

I didn't like the way things were going. Maria was throwing more and more of my things out into the yard, there was a big pile now, my eight pairs of jeans, my five pairs of blue work shirts, my fashionable slouch beanies, my colored and funky socks, and the doll I used to play tug of war with Gus.

And then, my worst nightmare, my iMac, landing with a big crash.

My Internet was down. I was shut down.

It looked like the Deep Farm conspiracy was working. They are ruining America, I thought. I couldn't stay out in the pasture, I couldn't go back into the house. I quick- dialed a number on my Favorite list in my contacts.

"Yes," said a deep and sultry voice.

"Stormy?," I said. "This is Jon."


"I told you never to call me here. In case you haven't noticed, I'm busy."

"Stormy," I said, "everyone knows about us now, even the FBI. It will come out."

"So?," she said. "Join the club, get in line. I'm a First Amendment Champion these days. The work is much lighter than porn movies, and there is more money in it, potentially…." There was a pause.

"I have to be honest, Jon, nobody really wants to hear the details of our story. I can't get a lunch offer out of it."

"Stormy, I have a favor, in honor of our sweet time together?"

"What is it?"

"Are you going to talk about the size…"

The size? Of what?

"You know, we call him my Little Twanger…"

There was silence.

"I won't lie to you," she said. "I want all the facts to come out. I'm  not holding anything back. The  sex was nothing special, pretty typical for a man of your age, it took longer than usual. I always thanked God when the Little Twanger sat up…"

I pleaded for understanding, I was really out there now.

"I'm going to tell the animals about us," I said."..Maria already knows, she's throwing all my  belongings out of the farmhouse."

I had stepped into the Pole Barn for privacy. Only the barn swallows could hear me, and they were discreet.

Then I lowered the volume of  my smart phone and listened to Stormy talking carefully and in an icy voice. Then she hung up.

The animals were all in a circle, starting at me. The Deep Farm State was closing in.

I can't talk about Stormy," I said, looking Zelda right in the eye and puffing myself up. "I signed an NDA agreement, if I talk about my relationship about her all, I'll have to pay $100,000 for each statement. It's pretty airtight."

"Boy, you need a lawyer," offered Pumpkin. "And you better pay for this one."

As I left the pasture, the donkeys were huddling with Flo and Minnie. "That's the way it is with him," said Flo, everyone who gets too close to him gets shot or put down. Everyone who comes near him gets tainted."

The donkeys, traitorous creatures, were nodding. "I've been on Craig's List," said Lulu. "I found a young organic farmer who's looking for a farm. I can see which way the wind blows."

Fanny nodded, "yeah he's in big trouble. And my money says Maria will get him before Feds."

"Bet," said the cats.


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Tin Man Down Again

By: Jon Katz

Tin Man Down

Ed Gulley's Tin Man weathered a fierce and stormy winter with no trouble, but he's having a tough Spring. A series of windstorms, the latest freakish message from Mother Earth, have struck in recent weeks. Days of rain and ice and snow have softened the ground, and 60 mile an hour winds have blown trash cans, chairs and slate tiles around.

The Tin Man succumbed last week, falling on his left side and damaging his arm. Last night, he fell on his right side.We're going to stand him up again this morning and see if he can stay upright.

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