Monday, January 22, 2018
Human Interest

Opening lines: Playing the high and the low

Some years ago, when my wife and I were still a cat family, we had three of the critters living with us. And then, after a particularly awful weekend, we didn't.

Emmett was my wife's cat, and he just got old and blind. Late one night, he had a seizure, which entailed a trip to the emergency vet and a very tearful decision to put him to sleep.

Two nights later we were back at the vet, in the same "goodbye" room, this time holding Bess, a stray that I had found two years before, bleeding from a bite wound on my doorstep. Bess had never been a particularly robust cat, but by the time her kidneys quit she was spending most of her days motionless under a reading lamp, more or less like a furry order of fries.

The woman at the checkout counter was holding my AmEx when she asked us if we wanted to pay extra to have them cremated individually. Yes, we said, as if the mere thought of a communal cremation was intolerably barbaric.

And for an extra $75 would you like their cremains returned in a special heart-shaped tin? she asked. Yes, we nodded emphatically.

A couple of days later I returned to collect the ashes. I held the two containers and noted one was appreciably lighter. This made sense, because at 5 pounds Bess could barely budge the needle on the scale and Emmett was easily double her size. Problem was that Bess' name appeared on the much heavier box. Hmm.

As Peter Jamison's piece on the sudden surge in pet funerals (Page 3) makes clear, the best practices of the industry have come a long way since I got a $75 lesson in grief exploitation.

Speaking of authenticity. . .

Ben Montgomery took a drive deep into the woods of North Florida to write about one of the last great blues bars in the South. We briefly considered withholding the exact location of the Bradfordville Blues Club so that no one could accuse us of having corrupted it by making it too popular. We would never deny our readers the pleasure of the best Florida has to offer; besides, you never know what life lessons you're going to learn at a blues show.

Many years ago, in a time before cats and marriage, I went to see the great Chicago guitarist Buddy Guy play at Skipper's Smokehouse. A steady rain was giving the guy on the sound board fits, but his attempts to correct the mix kept knocking the sound out altogether. Finally, Guy had not heard enough and growled into the mike:

"Hey, man, don't touch the knobs! I play the dynamic! I play high and I play low! Just walk away!"

I have adopted that statement of ranging ambition for Floridian. But unlike that hapless sound man, I don't want to you to go anywhere. Just hold on and enjoy the show.

Bill Duryea can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8770.

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