Climber the Cat – A Tale of Orlando

Granted, the story of my cat hardly seems thematically appropriate for a blog centered around swamps and summits with some stops in between. But Edmund Hillary Climber arrived in our lives 15 years or so ago from about 70 feet up a tree. I figure that qualifies.

Way back – when the girls were young and the dogs a year old, if that – we became aware that a scrawny dehydrated orange tabby cat had taken up residence in a very tall laurel oak tree that resided on the no man’s land between us and the back yards of two of our neighbors.

We tried to ignore his plaintive meows, presuming he’d find his way down. But he didn’t. That particular tree – which is no longer, having taken a massive hit during Hurricane Charlie -leaned at an odd angle, and  the reams of Spanish moss that coated its trunk deterred any creature of normal intelligence from trying to make its way down.

It was probably a Sunday when we first became aware of him. Monday he was still in the tree, despite the repeated attempts of the girls to lure him down with tins of tuna.  I found myself driving back home at lunch to  see if there had been a breakthrough. Suit and high heels on, I climbed up on a stool, waving about a can of cat food, in the vain hope this would cause a descent.

By Wednesday I’d had enough. Didn’t fire departments assist with cat tree extraction? My assistant at the time was married to a firefighter and gave me the non emergency fire number. Sure enough, that morning they met us at our house, got their ladders out, scaled the tree and tried to lure the cat down, but to no avail.

Thursday he was still in the tree. By now I was worried. How long could an animal  actually live in an oak tree 70 feet above ground with access only to condensation for water. Friday rolled around. It seemed to me there was no choice but another call to the fire department. J looked at me incredulously. “You cannot just keep calling the fire department to rescue a cat. There could be real fires.” He let it go that time but I truly belie

ve a third call to the fire department would have resulted in divorce.

The second set of fire department guys showed up. They told me they would try to get him down by spraying him with the fire hose and reminded me of the old fire fighters’ adage that you don’t find dead cats in trees.  I asked about the ladders and they assured me they were not allowed to use ladders for cat rescues. I could hardly say that the first set of fire department cat rescuers had indeed put up the ladders!

Finally, by the next weekend, hunger and thirst must have become too much. Climber, as he became known, with the girls, I and a neighbor child watching, swung himself down the awkward facing trunk, through the banks of Spanish moss, and emerged on the ground, all in one piece.

After quickly christening him Edmund Hillary Climber H****,  we kept him in the garage one night and took him off to the vet for shots the very next day.

He proceeded to live a full and I hope happy life for another 15 or so years. He was the smartest cat I’ve ever had. He could open any levered door. My favorite story involves an evening when – before we knew of his door opening propensities – we had gone to the Shakespeare festival one night with friends – without double locking the door. We returned home to find the dogs sitting on the porch, the front door wide open, a dead mole on our bedroom floor, and no sign of of Climber. After his night of partying, he appeared meowing at the front door, about 3 a.m.

He was a legend in the neighborhood. He thought he was more dog than cat. He went out with the dogs on their early morning walks, and if he felt they were being victimized he was more than willing to attack any dog in the neighborhood on  behalf of his little pack.

The dogs and he would sniff around together, looking for some common prey. But Climber was frequently highly disappointed with their hunting skills and would swat them with his paws as they failed to live up to his expectations.

Mr. Climber, the stories are legion. We miss you. God speed. 

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A New York Minute – in Orlando

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Downtown Orlando

So the leaping and springing forward of the last two weeks took their toll, and left me unable to complete the post I’d planned yesterday. Blame it on that extra day and one less hour. Funny how the extra day didn’t compensate for the one less hour.

This week we’re taking a brief detour from treks and summits to explore urban hiking combined with public transportation in downtown Orlando – a city not renowned for its pedestrian friendly nature.

Being fortunate enough to to live a mere 2 1/2 miles from work, walking is always a option for me. And on Friday, as is frequently my wont, I went ahead and took the 45 minute stroll into the office. See Urban Hiking in Orlando – Art in Odd Places. (There’s actually another post somewhere in this blog about urban hiking that I couldn’t even find – the risks of writing almost every week.)

But this time I’d planned a transportation challenge for the way back. Yes, I could have taken Sunrail – our new uber light rail that goes from my office to Florida Hospital, just a 20 minute walk from my house.

Or I could take the Lymmo.

I still remember a client looking at me aghast when I said I would take a lymmo to the courthouse.

Here in Orlando the lymmo is our free circulating bus.  Several routes have just been added, one of which goes almost to the edge of the lake I live by. So at just past 6 on Friday I ventured out, dodging the Orlando City soccer fans who were all taking express lymmo buses to the soccer stadium, to wait for about 8 minutes for my bus up to the courthouse, the site to change for bus number 2. The bus on the first leg of my journey was fairly crowded. Most prominent was a young woman with a toddler carrying a bag smelling decidedly of seafood. The woman carried the bag,  not the toddler. After she and said toddler (in stroller) plopped themselved down she pulled out a crab leg from her plastic bag. “No eating on the bus,” boomed the driver. Back went the crab leg. She unstrapped said toddler from the stroller and hoisted her up onto her lap, swishing away the milky stains from said toddler’s face, neck and arms. The smell of seafood started to dissipate.

By the time we reached the courthouse, the location to pick up bus number 2, pretty much everyone was off. One poor soul was still trying to figure out how to get to the soccer game. That left me and two others. As I studied my map for the next leg of my journey, up to the senior center in Marks Street, which would leave me a more 20 minutes walk from my house, one of my fellow travelers asked me if I needed help.

I love traveling incognito. At this point I was just one of the weary trying to get home on free transportation – little resemblance to the lawyer I spend my days disguised as.

I explained where I was headed and she told me to make sure to watch for the bus swinging around the corner, because that would be the one I needed.  The other gentlemen on the bus was quite talkative – he was headed up to Park Lake to meet friends, carrying a plastic bag filled with what appeared to a liquid and potato chip picnic. We all commiserated on the sad state of Orlando’s roads, wrought by the Ultimate I4 construction project, and enjoyed one of those moments of kinship that crosses all racial, economic and educational bounds.

I disembarked in front of the Senior Center, the only passenger left before the bus made its next loop back to the courthouse. The driver had another two or three hours to go. The already warm evening made a little warmer by the warmth generated by the shared community of free bus riders. Like one of those fleeting moments in New York – when people on the subway all make eye contact.  Not always clear why – just a moment everyone’s worlds and perceptions collide.