For Claude

Last weekend Linda and I attended a wake, for a kitty cat.

This might sound somewhat out of the ordinary but it wasn’t the first funeral that we’ve been to for a creature with more than two legs. Over the past few years we’ve held more than a couple of memorial services for bunny rabbits that managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up, literally, on or near our property. We have a bunny burial ground a couple of blocks from our house. It’s on a hillside and has a nice view of the sun setting behind the mountains.

During the drive to Ventura for the wake Linda and I were discussing how many people just don’t get how devastating it is when you lose a pet. Sometimes you’ll hear them say something like, “It’s not like it was a person.” Paaaaaleez. There are a number of persons that I could do without.

I told her, again, about how I lost a kitty named “Saturn,” (don’t ask) back in 1979. That puddy loved me like no thing or no one before or since ever has and the feeling was mutual. I still haven’t gotten over her 30 years later. Then there was “Spike.” A big, fat, orange tabby that lived with me for about 9 years before a coyote got him back around 1990. I still think of him. He loved broccoli.

Jean Claude, the kitty whose wake we attended, left this world last week and took with him the broken heart of our dear friend Alexis who had the privilege of watching over him during his stay on Earth. He lived nearly 19 years. He was jet black and very lovable.

Claude was known for many things but one of his characteristic traits was his bullwhip of a tail. You needed to be wary when walking past him or he might cut your legs clean off at the knees. He could wake you from a dead sleep slapping that tail on the floor and he would flog you with it when you pet his back sometimes leaving welts that hurt but healed soon enough.

Claude loved the sun and just hanging in the garden. He liked salmon and stretching out across in the bed.

He also enjoyed a good Cuban cigar and a single malt scotch while sitting poolside with the New York Times. He liked the music of Cat Power and was a fan of Pink Panther movies.

All this past week I’ve been watching the moon. The moon is my planet and I like watching its mood change from month to month and year to year. But for the past 10 days or so the moon has been particularly beautiful.

Last week I rushed home so I could try to get a photograph of the moon juxtaposed with Venus. They were so close they seemed to be holding hands as they dipped below the horizon in the west.

Watching them through the viewfinder in the darkening sky I could have sworn I saw the silhouettes of Saturn and Spikey chasing each other around the moon and Venus. I often see them, up there, dancing with the stars, but this time there was a third kitty silhouette, his tail whipping up little clouds of stardust.


Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

I‘ve seen this a lot lately. The title of this post, –30–. Mostly I’ve seen it at the end of farewell pieces written by journalists who are leaving their newspaper jobs because the companies they work for are downsizing or cutting expenses or closing down. And after 26 years in journalism I can’t say, with any certainty, exactly what it means.

I can venture a guess though.

Back in the days of the typewriter, writers would have to put certain characters into their text that typesetters could understand, markup actually. Things like quad left or CR or em space.

Although the first newspaper I worked for did use typewriters, I didn’t. I was a photographer and had no need to learn typesetting code. But I did see a hell of a lot of hard copy going in and out of the backshop. Different typesetting systems used different types of code but there was some similarity overall.

I’m going to guess. –30– means end. The end. Stop.

So, yesterday as I sat at my desk at work looking over a newsroom that has been picked away at like carrion on a dry lakebed, and doing the work that just a few weeks ago would have been scheduled for two individuals, on an election night, I get an IM from my wife Linda.

“Bad news,” she IM’d.

“Oh shit,” I replied.

I pretty much knew what that meant. Earlier in the day she was chatting with me that she had a bad feeling, that there was just a dreadful vibe permeating her workplace. Now, she told me, her boss had held individual meetings with her and her co-workers and that he’s having to cut everybody’s pay by 20% and that one person, and a damn talented one, was going to be let go.

This after having to cut all their hours just a few months ago by another 20%.

At least she wasn’t the one that was being let go. At least I’ve managed to dodge that layoff bullet for the past year. Our newsroom which was at 125 last February is now at 65. Somehow, I’m still there. I think it’s because I’m invisible.

Invisible is good. But my shields are getting weaker.

Last night, one of our reporters asked me if I had watched the video at the Rocky Mountain News yet. I said that I hadn’t and she told me that I must. So this morning I looked it up, found the HD version on Vimeo and watched the whole 20 minutes with a lump in my throat the size of a fruitcake. I don’t think I know a single person that worked in that newsroom but my heart was breaking anyway.

My heart was breaking for the loss that every one of those people at the Rocky are feeling and the loss the entire industry that I’ve loved for 26 years is feeling and the loss that Circuit City employees are feeling and the loss the auto industry is feeling and the loss anyone who owns stocks is feeling and the loss that Linda is feeling … and on and on.

At the end of the video, as the music melted away and I sat alone at my desk in my quiet house, a very hard rain began to fall.

It was, kind of, beautiful.

It was devastatingly beautiful.

Fade to black.