Friday, May 13, 2011

Aïda, the Cat

Daughter Susan with Aïda, 1986

            Aïda the Cat was just a kitten when my daughter, Susan, rescued her on the streets of Naples, Italy.  She brought her to our palazzo, in the Posillippo section of Naples, and insisted that we give her a home. 

Naples Harbor with Mount Vesuvius in the haze

            Maria, our diminutive Italian maid, was delighted to see us taking an interest in a Neapolitan cat.  Then, one day I mentioned that we were going to have the cat “fixed”, and Maria looked horrified.  She crossed her arms in front of her own body and swore that if we touched that cat she would leave our employment. 
            After three years in Naples, it was time to go back to the U.S. We intended to give Aïda to a deserving family before we left, but then our daughter, age 14, announced that if we didn’t take Aïda, she was staying with the cat. 
            So, we went to a veterinarian, had the cat spayed and vaccinated, and started the paperwork process for taking her back to the United States
            I searched out an obscure office down on the waterfront in Naples, and there was the Official Inspector of Animals for Export.  He was the typical Italian bureaucrat, and he commenced very formally to fill out all sorts of forms and papers, and went into a frenzy of stamping a whole selection of rubber stamps on the forms. 
            Then we accompanied the cat to my next duty station, which was Newport, RI.
            After two years of teaching at the Naval War College, I was assigned to a year of schooling in preparation for an assignment as Naval Attaché in Russia. We bought a house in New Hampshire and the family, including Aïda, lived there while I was in various schools in Washington.
            Aïda made it to Moscow, and took up ownership of our apartment, and learned that she and our daughter were both welcome to visit the Barracks of the U.S. Marine Corps detachment in the Embassy.  The cat would sometimes escape our apartment and take a stroll down there. The Marines were always glad to see her.

After leaving Moscow, I was headed for my next assignment as Commander of a relatively small naval base on the southwestern corner of Japan, on the island of Kyushu, in Nagasaki prefecture.

On the way to my new assignment I stopped in Yokosuka to visit my new local area boss, a Navy Rear Admiral, to meet him and his staff, and learn about official relations with Japan and the Japanese Defense Forces. Then I would fly another 800 km. to Sasebo to take command there.
I was accompanying Aïda.
            When you carry a cat like Aïda, you are accompanying her, not the other way around.
            On my last night in Yokosuka, I attended a nice dinner hosted by the admiral.  When I returned to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters I found that my cat had escaped. She had found a way to push out the screen in the bathroom and was now loose on the base.
            I took a box of dry cat food and went out walking around the building,
shaking the cat food, and calling for Aïda. That was our usual technique.
That cat never was enthusiastic about coming when I called her. In the Soviet Union the cat quickly formed a bond with all the young Marines in the Embassy Marine Detachment.  If my daughter or the Marines had called her, she’d have come running.
            The cat did not come to my calling, so I went to bed.
            I had an early flight to Sasebo the next day, so at about 4 a.m. I was up, dressed in Service Dress Blues, walking around in the dark outside the BOQ, rattling the cat food box again, calling "Aïda!!" desperately.  You can imagine the pitiful sight of a U.S. Navy captain, behaving like that.
            No cat. I finally had to leave to fly to Sasebo.  The admiral's aide agreed to put out the word for our cat.
            Several weeks later, I was entertaining a visiting group of doctors at our base in Sasebo, led by the Commander of the Navy Hospital in Yokosuka. I told him and his wife about losing the cat on the base at Yokosuka.  The wife said that she thought she had seen such a cat.

            A week later, Captain Miner, the Hospital Commander, called and said he thought he had my cat.  He had caught the cat walking on his roof and when he grabbed it, it bit him. In the meantime the aide, true to his word, had advertised in the base newspaper for the black cat that did NOT answer to its name.  According to the Hospital Commander's description, it was Aïda, so I asked my son, Mark, who was living with us, and working on getting into a college in Tokyo, to make a detour by Yokosuka to pick up the cat.
            Mark, who was traveling on his own funds, took the cheap train (36 hours round trip) rather than the expensive bullet train (8 hours).  He collected the cat, and brought her back to us in Sasebo.
When Aïda arrived, she walked calmly out of her cage onto the floor in our kitchen and looked at us as if to say, "What in hell has kept you people?"
Aïda was finally reunited with Susan, and when Susan married, Aïda accepted her husband Ted. She is now in cat heaven.

And now, the Personal Navigator offers these books:

Canning:  Sketch of the Character of Mr. Canning. From the National Intelligencer of Sept. 15, 1827 By  Rush, Richard  1828 Washington, DC: Gales & Seaton. Blistering picture of Great Britain's Foreign Minister, George Canning (1770-1827) published shortly after his death, apparently written by Richard Rush, but also attributed to John Quincy Adams.  Sketch accuses Canning of "British selfishness", toryism, undeviating support for monarchy, ridiculing popular movements. Canning was never the political friend of the U.S., writer states. "From Mr. Canning, literally nothing has been obtained -- no, never; though we have held frequent and protracted negotiations with the British Government, during his administration of the Foreign Office." 22 pp. 13 x 21 cm. Paper booklet, pencil notes on cover wrap: "Richard Rush, author". Minor foxing.  Good. (7929) $42.00. History/Great Britain

 Chelsea Fire: Souvenir Book of The Great Chelsea Fire April 12, 1908; containing 34 views of the burned district and prominent buildings also a descriptive sketch 1908 Boston, MA: N.E. Paper and Stationery Co.  Fire that started at about 11 a.m. in the Boston Blacking Company on West 3rd St. near the Everett line. So intense was fire that buildings made of solid granite crumbled and were entirely destroyed. Number of buildings destroyed was about 1500, and between 10,000 and 12,000 people were rendered homeless. Photos show various scenes of damage, including Stebbins Block, looking up Broadway from Third St., Everett Avenue, corner post of Granite Block, Cherry Street, Odd Fellows Building, Bellingham Hill, Chelsea Savings Bank Building, Williams School ruins on Walnut street, Shurtleff School ruins on Essex St. Also Ruins of City Hall and City Hall School on Central Avenue, more. 32 pp. 15 x 10.5 cm. Paper booklet, good. (7958) $48.00. History/Boston

 Plain Language from Truthful James by Bret Harte
Drawings by Joseph Hull

Plain Language from Truthful James, by Francis Bret Harte (1839-1902); Table Mountain, 1870; Collection of Nine Drawings by Joseph Hull. 1870 Chicago, IL: Western News Co. 9 prints, matted 20 x 25 cm. Plain Language from Truthful James by Francis Bret Harte (1839-1902); Table Mountain, 1870.  Collection of nine drawings by Joseph Hull, published by the Western News Company, 1870.  This collection dramatizes the racial prejudice against Chinese brought to America to work on the railroad in the 19th century.  Note the eighth drawing in the series, showing an all-out melee against the “Chinee”. Set of nine prints, matted in blue cardboard matting. Title card is not present. Lightly soiled. Print No. 6 has 1 x 1 cm chip in lower left hand corner. Good. (7093) $85.00 Humor/Poetry

Discourse Delivered by Rev. G.W. Samson, Pastor of the Baptist Church, Jamaica Plain, Mass. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1852. 1853 Boston, MA: Ticknor and Fields. Sermon praises fine American leaders, but cleverly swipes at them. Praises Daniel Webster and slams defenders of slaveholding. "Be assured of this... among a virtuous and pious people, immoral and irreligious rulers cannot exist. Among the majority of our men in station, there is a control over their appetites and passions such as men of less impulsiveness and less temptation have no conception of." If only Rev. Samson could get up and give us another sermon today...16 pp. 14 x 23 cm. Paper pamphlet, front cover nearly detached, owner name on front. Good. (3156) $24.00. History/Religious.

Discourse Delivered in the morning at Quincy and in the afternoon to the third Religious Society in Hingham on the Day of the State Fast, July 23, 1812 by Whitney, Peter, A.M. 1812 Boston, MA: John Eliot, Jun. Speaker addresses audiences on a day of fasting and prayer in opposition to "Mr. Monroe's War", the War with Britain in 1812. Notes two-thirds of Northern Senators opposed war. 16 pp. 14 x 23 cm. Paper booklet with coarse blue paper wrap. Pencil markings on title page. Good. (2658) $35.00. History


  1. Great story! I remember Aida, but never realized she had been so many places.

  2. I read the story of Aida to Dayna. I had told her a very warped story about Aida as I remembered it. Dayna is a real cat person. When she came, she had two cats, and I hard-heartedly limited her to one. That one, Whitby was completely white. One time she peed on the eight-foot by 4-foot genealogy I had printed from our mother and dad's work, right about where Isaac Allerton was sleeping. Dayna's present cat is more well behaved. We got her from a shelter, and she was really glad to get out of that cage. I think it was good discipline for her, as she is really fond of strokes, and she didn't get that many at the shelter.