Cemetery Cats: Rome

There is a managed colony of stray and feral cats living in Rome’s Protestant Cemetery. I think they like being near the pyramid: reminds them of when they were gods. I have many pics of them, including some here at my Flickr page (if this is not public, forgive me) and here at my National Geographic page (it definitely is public). I’ll start with a few and post more in days to come.

Long-haired beauty.

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Calico beauty (if you look at my old photos from the links above, you will see that this kitty has been thriving at the cemetery for a few years).

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Kitty on a tomb, using it to get up into a tree.

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Kitty in the tree.

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Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Yevgeny Yevtushenko died this weekend. This obituary is fair, I think, describing well both his courage and his limitations. Since most of us only have limitations though, I am less inclined to be critical of his decision to work within the Soviet system. He wrote ‘Babi Yar,’ and for that, we all owe him. I cannot read this poem without tears.

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.

I see myself an ancient Israelite.
I wander o’er the roads of ancient Egypt
And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
And even now, I bear the marks of nails.

It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself.
The Philistines betrayed me – and now judge.
I’m in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
I’m persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.

I see myself a boy in Belostok.
Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.

I’m thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of “Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!”
My mother’s being beaten by a clerk.

O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
Are international, by inner nature.
But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.

I know the kindness of my native land.
How vile, that without the slightest quiver
The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
The “Union of the Russian People!”

It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
And I’m in love, and have no need of phrases,
But only that we gaze into each other’s eyes.
How little one can see, or even sense!
Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
But much is still allowed – very gently
In darkened rooms each other to embrace.

-“They come!”

-“No, fear not – those are sounds
Of spring itself. She’s coming soon.
Quickly, your lips!”

-“They break the door!”

-“No, river ice is breaking…”

Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.

And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I’m every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.

No fiber of my body will forget this.
May “Internationale” thunder and ring
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.

There is no Jewish blood that’s blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that’s corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!

More information about the massacre here.


I don’t know if all the people we lose look down on us or sit on our shoulders or dance on a pin or hover in the outfield, but because I hope they do, this song.


This week marks 14 years since the war in Iraq — Gulf War II — began. Julie Lenarz sums up many of my feelings on the matter (from her Facebook page):

It’s the 14th anniversary of the Iraq war and I see the usual “war criminals – lock them up” bullshit in my timeline from the same crowd that is still unable to accept that a political decision you happen to disagree with, no matter how profoundly, is not a crime. The UK conducted no less than five independent inquiries clearing the government of deliberately lying, so at this point it is really those that are still pretending otherwise for their own petty politics and out of a false sense of moral superiority that are bending the truth.

The only war criminal is dead and goes by the name of Saddam Hussein, a genocidal dictator responsible for the death of over two million people. Get some fucking perspective.

Yep. One hundred percent.

Jimmy Breslin

Jimmy Breslin died this week. Phrases like “end of an era” were used in his obituaries — certainly, he was one of the last old-school, crusty, Lou Grant-style journalists. I always enjoyed his writing. Two of his classic columns were written about the assassination of JFK: A Death in Emergency Room One and It’s an Honor. They were reprinted in ‘The Daily Beast’ for the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death and can be found here. They’re both touching and beautifully written (particularly It’s an Honor) – the kind of journalism that we don’t see much of anymore, unfortunately.

People are Strange

I had an odd conversation with someone the other day, or rather, a conversation with someone that revealed them to be odd. It was someone I hadn’t seen in a while, and she was talking about how she had adopted a rescue dog (good for her). This is someone who previously had a cat – a cat to whom she gave great care, I should be clear. But she said to me that the bond with her dog was so much deeper and better than with her cat – a comparison I found odd (she even said what she felt about her cat hadn’t “come close” to what she feels about her dog). I can’t imagine saying that about animals. The bond is different with each pet, of course, but better? I guess the problem was also her tone, which was, shall we say, completely dismissive of her cat. It was like she was saying, “Gee, what a nothing relationship that was! What a waste!” It creeped me out and I guess that showed on my face because she quickly said — rather defensively — “Well, I’m very tactile and my dog likes to sit in my lap, something my cat never did.” I just sort of nodded, though what I wanted to say was, “Oh, so you need a lot back from a fellow being in order to love it. I see. You need the poor creature to do stuff for you in order to feel something profound for it.”  I mean, geez. It’s great she is giving a dog a good home, but I never needed my cats to snuggle me to feel profound love for them. And I can’t imagine making comparisons like that. I can’t imagine saying, “My love for my new pet is so much better than my love for the previous one!” It’s so cold.

I should add, this is a touchy-feely new-age person, and I guess I expect more warmth and a greater capacity for empathy from people like that, but perhaps I shouldn’t. When I think about it, I’ve known plenty of new-agey types who are judgmental and less than kind.

This same woman, years ago, said a most peculiar thing when a mutual acquaintance of ours killed herself. It was a terrible time, of course, but she said that our acquaintance was “not able to figure things out in this life” and “obviously is going to have to work things out in her next life,” or some such. She was kind of shrugging about it. She even added that our friend “had all kinds of people she could have gone to for help, and she chose not to.” It seemed like she was making an accusation, rather than showing an understanding that depressed people often can’t reach out, even if they know help is there.

[So that was today’s edition of People are Strange. Given how humans behave, it may be a recurring feature.]