116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
I’ve seen this cat for the past year or two, hunting mice in the field in front of my house, feral, calico, and small. I have never been able to get close to her but the other night I was cooking salmon on the grill and when I ventured out to turn the salmon over there she was, mewing and just generally chatting.
When the salmon was done I broke off a nice-sized piece for her and put it on the sidewalk next to the grill, thinking that surely a wild cat is not going to eat cooked salmon. As soon as I got in the house I looked out of the window. Her salmon was gone and there she was, licking her lips. Like all wild creatures, she was beautiful.
A couple of weeks ago I did something that surprised even me: I hung out with friends at their garage sale. I had a seat in the garage, next to a card table upon which lay a couple of Barbie dolls. My wife had a Barbie doll around 1960. It’s likely in a box in my basement, not because she saved it but because her mother did.
It has been determined that were she real, Barbie would be 5’9” tall, have a 39” bust, 18 “waist, and 32” hips, etc. etc. Here’s the thing: Barbie herself walked into the garage that day, looking for bargains, and she caught the attention all present. We all stared. Big blonde hair. Body-hugging black and silver dress. Ageless.
She wandered from table to table looking at the sale items, turned to thank us, and moved on. As soon as she was gone someone asked, “How old do you think she is?” One man said 25, the other (me), said 50. In other words, the woman was brilliant. And while it felt more cartoonlike than real, she knew how to make an entrance, and how to make herself memorable. It was a brilliant act, a star-turn in three minutes. I love getting back out in the world, even if it makes me feel plain and ordinary.
Closer to home the male deer are sporting velvet-covered antlers. The velvet is filled with proteins and minerals to assist the antlers with growth. This assistance is needed because deer grow new antlers every year. Come January they’ll begin shedding them and next spring new ones will emerge. If you care to look for antlers on the ground call me in February or March. We’ll search the woods together.
On Sunday, July 4 I stood in a long line at the closest Starbucks and when it came my turn to order I requested a small vanilla latte from a young woman.
I noted that a favorite barista named Sandy was washing a few dishes, so I said, “Hey Sandy, it’s the Fourth of July. I’ll meet you in Asbury Park later on.” Sandy offered up her usual Mona Lisa half- smile and said, “OK, Bruce.” I wondered why the young woman who took my order didn’t ask for a name to put on the container, like they usually do. Then I heard, “Vanilla latte for Bruce!”
You see, the young woman didn’t know that the exchange between the barista and me wasn’t real, that our roles were right out of a Bruce Springsteen song from 1973. It was a fun few minutes, minutes that took me back to when I was just beginning to feel it for the first time, the possibilities, the beautiful narrative of youth that comes back around, gaining importance as the years pile up behind us. I don’t wish to go back to 1973 but it’s nice to remember that I was there once.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.