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Oh woe is me, there's no good spot for the tree

November 30, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

Thanksgiving is the Kentucky Derby of holidays: A full week of preparation and hype for a main event that lasts (the way most Americans eat) only a few minutes.

But there is no comfort scratching that holiday off the list, for it is a mere sounding bell to remind us that Christmas will be at our throats in another four weeks, and that sets in motion a preparation matrix involving far more than just food.

Christmas is complicated. If the three wise men had known what mayhem they were touching off in the modern world with their "gifts," I strongly suspect they might have settled for just shaking the baby Jesus' hand.

At least they can't be blamed for the tree. No way is lugging a 6-foot piece of $50 shrubbery into the living room a good idea, especially since it means you will be picking needles and tinsel out of the furniture until March.

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But finding and taking out a home equity loan for the tree is only part of the problem, at least in my house. We have to figure out where it's going to go. Naval battles have been fought with less planning than what we engage in to narrow it down to Just the Right Spot.

Can't put it here because of the radiator. Can't put it here because you won't be able to see it from the road. Can't put it here because it's a high-traffic area. Can't put it here because there is no nearby power substation necessary for the estimated 2,908,293 lights. Can't put it here, so I am told by the Elf in High Heels, because "will you be serious, we can't put a Christmas tree in the attic."

And this year there is another complication: We can't put it anywhere it can be leaped upon by the trapeze artist of a cat we inherited over the summer.

I haven't written much about Colonel Sanders because, frankly, he is a difficult cat to describe. For complexity, he makes Charles Barkley look like Ned Flanders. Just take everything you think you know about cats and throw it out the window.

For one thing, he hates fish. Throw him a piece of salmon and he'll hunch down and stare at it, absorbed in meditation like some mystic contemplating the rapture. Second, unlike most cats, the Colonel is not aloof. He demands to be part of whatever action might be taking place. For example, we would not dare pick out a piece of living room furniture without his consultation, because if he feels left out he gets all surly and mean and there is simply no living with him for the rest of the week.

The Colonel has no interest in catching a mouse. He appears to be above it. He never sits in a window; he has more interest in exploring the dark basement, where he experiments to see how black and cobweb-filled he can make his long, white fur. We cannot keep him out of the basement, because he quickly learned how to open doors - a point that drives the dog Jake Biscuit (who has been working unsuccessfully on that particular skill for about four years) insane - or insaner, I should say.

At birth he was blessed with smarts and audacity, but the Cat Bakers left out one ingredient key to most cats: Coordination.

Never has there been such a graceless feline. Next to him, Mungojerry and Rumpleteazer are Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Maybe you saw that figure skater who fell on her lemon a few weeks ago. That is Colonel Sanders' life. He tries to be graceful, but can't.

He's the only cat I have ever seen leap for a chair - and miss. He recently launched himself at the top of a cafe table. The magnitude was good, but the vector was all off. Like Pickett's Charge, one very small portion of cat reached its goal, but that only made things worse, because it served to change his overall direction in an unproductive manner and he did a midair back flip then went crashing down through the center of the table, hitting every spoke and rail along the way, ending up, with an audible "poof" escaping from his lungs, astride the bottom rung, with all four paws dangling about an inch above the floor.

This was not his finest moment, and he knew it. But rather than accept some "personal responsibility," he commenced to blame everyone else in the room, and for the next couple of days we had to tiptoe around the house for fear of setting him off in a renewed fit of bile and rage.

So yes, the tree will be a problem. My solution is just to lay the tree down on its side on the floor and decorate it there, since that is likely where it will end up anyway.

But it appears that this will not happen. In my house there is never any appreciation for a man's genius and native wit.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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