Friday, March 2, 2012

Adventures of Aïda, the Cat

Aïda, the Cat

Daughter Susan with Aïda, 1986

[Note: This blog has been amended since it was originally published in May, 2011.]

            Some little boys were throwing stones at this tiny black kitten, on a street in Naples, Italy.
Our daughter, Susan, age 11 at the time, rescued her, and brought her to our apartment, and insisted that we give her a home. 
We had just seen Verdi’s Opera, Aïda, about a beautiful Ethiopian princess, so that became “our” cat’s name.

Naples Harbor with Mount Vesuvius in the haze

            Maria, our Italian maid, was a tiny little Neapolitan woman.  She 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 would stay in Naples with the cat. We had a mutiny on our hands.
            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. We didn’t bother Maria with these details.
            I searched out an obscure office down on the waterfront in Naples, and there was the Official Inspector of Animals for Export. 
            Italian government officials, even animal inspectors, take their jobs very seriously, at least until it is time for the afternoon maccheroni.
            Signor A. opened up a formidable ledger, pulled down pads of paper and various forms from his desk, and arranged a set of rubber stamps and a stamp pad where he could reach them easily.
            He put a form in an ancient typewriter, and began typing in the particulars of this “American cat”.  Then he went into a frenzy of stamping each rubber stamp where it belonged on the forms.  He never even looked at Aïda, sitting calmly in her cage.
            Then we flew home to Boston, and accompanied the cat to my next duty station, which was NewportRI.
            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 attending 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. 
            We had to send Aïda home to America by herself, and so I had to take her to the Swissair cargo area at Sheremetevo Airport.  It was very interesting to see the “back side” of this massive Communist airport, because there were huge containers destined for places on the “dark side,” away from our Amerikansky world—Haiphong and Hanoi, Viet Nam; Pyongyang, North Korea; Havana, Cuba; and such.  Our cat looked so forlorn in her cage amongst all those very foreign containers.

After leaving Moscow, I was headed for my next assignment as Commander of an Americasn 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 dinner hosted by the admiral.  When I returned to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters I found that Aïda 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. The cat did not come, I couldn’t find her, 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, parading around in the dark with a box of cat food, yelling the name of a Nubian princess!
            No cat. I finally had to leave to fly to Sasebo.  The admiral's aide offered to put out the word all over the base 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.
             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.
            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. 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 caught a slow train, which took 18 hours each way, and went to Sasebo.   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 that elaborate part of heaven reserved for cats.

And now, the Personal Navigator offers these books and papers:

Martha Summerhayes

Vanished Arizona: Recollections of My Army Life, with twenty-two illustrations.  First Edition. By Summerhayes, Martha 1908 Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott & Co. 270 pp. 13.5 x 19.8 cm. Young Martha spent time in the home of a Prussian officer in Germany, then returned to America and married a young officer in the U.S. Army and moved with him to Wyoming Territory in 1874. She quickly learned that the Army is not all glittering uniforms and elegant parties.  Her husband would be on detachments amongst the Indians for months, and she learned Army life.  Soon it was time to transfer to Arizona, and she relates learning how to pack, and traveling by rail from Cheyenne to San Francisco, then by sea to Baja California, then by river steamer up the Colorado to Fort Yuma. The heat is unbelievable! Then, by mule wagon to Fort Mojave, across the Mojave Desert to Fort Whipple, near the capital city of Arizona territory, Prescott. Then they traveled across the Mogollon range and finally arrived at Camp Apache. In January 1875 she has a baby boy, Harry; then there's a long trip up to Ehrenburg, Arizona. She learns how to stay positive amid the hardships of frontier life; she writes about the Apaches, including the horribly disfigured faces of women who have been unfaithful to their husbands. In 1879 she goes home to Nantucket, MA for a year, and their daughter is born; her husband takes a year's leave and joins her.  Martha learns a lot, and her story of a woman's view of Army life on the American frontier is colorful and interesting.  Decorated blue cloth on board. Cover illustration shows crossed rifles of the Eighth Foot above title. Name "Horatio Hathaway, Jr., Sept. 12 1909" inscribed on ffep.  Minor wear, very good. (3628) $220.00. History/American West/Army/ Memoir          

Farmers' Cabinet, Amherst, (N.H.) Saturday, August 3, 1822 No. 46 Vol. 20. 1822 Amherst, NH: Richard Boylston, Publisher.  4 pp.      31 x 51 cm. This paper is still published in 2012 as the Milford Cabinet, Milford being adjacent to Amherst. Report on Missionary Work with the Osage Indians who have exceedingly unpleasant habits. Their mode of cooking is polluted, neatness, cleanliness and chastity are unknown among them, and they like to fight.  "Mr. Adams and Mr. Russell" is an abbreviated account from The National Intelligencer about a conflict going back to the negotiations for the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.  Jonathan Russell and John Quincy Adams were ministers sent by President Monroe and this kerfluffle involved Russell and a letter he wrote, then lost, then he provided a different version, which he called a "copy" or a "duplicate"... all of this arose in 1822 in advance of the forthcoming campaign of Mr. Adams for president. Latest from Europe:  It is now certain that there will be no war between Turkey and Russia. The Turks have complied with the demand of Emperor Alexander for the evacuation f Moldavia and Wallachia. Greeks in two villages sacked by Turks have immolated Greek wives and children to prevent them from being violated. Greeks have burnt two Turkish ships of the line, two frigates, a corvette.  Spanish Aggression:  U.S. Schooner Porpoise, commanded by Lieutenant James Ramage arrived at St. Thomas after having been fired upon by two Spanish privateers, who shot away one of her shrouds, and passed several balls through her. [Ramage had already made a name for himself by destroying a pirate base with six vessels near Bahia Honda, Cuba.] [Is James Ramage an ancestor of WWII Submariner Lawson Ramage??]  Ads for Stray Mare belonging to Ephraim French of Amherst; Samuel Gill, indentured boy--Notice to all persons  harboring him or trusting him on account of Caleb Turner of Milford. David Russell has a fine assortment of Kid & Morocco Shoes at his shop near the Meeting House in Amherst. Newspaper, edges frayed, vertical fold nearly separated, poor. (8225) $40.00. Newspapers/History

 New-Hampshire Patriot, Concord, (New-Hampshire), Tuesday, April 9, 1816; Printed by Isaac Hill, Publisher of the Laws of the United States     1816        Concord, NH: Isaac Hill.  4 pp. 35 x 53 cm. Speech of the Hon. Mr. (Henry) Clay in the House of Representatives on the Subject of the Direct Tax. Clay notes debt accumulated by the recent war (War of 1812) as well as the Revolutionary War and the wars with Tripoli and Algiers. He mentions that he was "in the vicinity" of the Battle of Waterloo. [He was in London, and saw the illuminations and celebration after Wellington defeated Napoleon.] Clay ranges wide, discussing the Treaty of Ghent, fishing rights off Newfoundland. One of the great causes of the war, he says, was impressment of American sailors, and now that is stopped. "What have we gained by the war?" he asked, then answered, "..before the war... we were the scorn of the universe... contempt of ourselves......" We have gained "respectability and character abroad---security and confidence at home....our character and constitution are placed on a solid basis never to be shaken."  Article fills whole front page and one column of page 2, and is continued. Dartmouth College:  "The insidious hand of one of the intolerant Trustees is discovered.."  Discussion of scandal and abuse towards Dartmouth President Wheelock....Accusations of hypocrisy and malignity..... Thompson and others have been effectively "put down" by their own "wicked attempt 'to put down' a certain man!"  Remarkable letter to the Printer by Mary Pitcher, dated April 1, 1816 takes up about one column to reel out literary allusions and flowing discourse, alluding to witchery--- appears to be April Fool's tomfoolery. Notice of those people in New Hampshire who have not paid their Direct Tax in conformity with the Act of Congress, 1813.             Newspaper, edges worn and frayed, rag content of paper has preserved it well.  Fair. (8226) $44.00. Newspapers/History               

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 BostonMA: 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 streetShurtleff 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

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