This has taken me a long time to write because it’s very difficult for me. Boris and I had a special bond. I was exceedingly proud of him. Dawn will tell you he hero worshipped me.

Boris was a cat. But he was more than just a cat. He was a sensitive soul with subtle sensibilities. That’s something you wouldn’t necessarily know unless and until you got to know him.

Boris lived from March 2009 until February 1, 2024. He was deeply loved by his best friend/brother/littermate Marley and his devoted parents Dawn and Jason.

Some things that Boris loved:

  • Watching shadows move as the sunlight changed
  • Cuddling with Marley
  • Grooming Marley while Marley groomed him
  • Stretching as tall as he could while sinking his claws into his scratching post
  • Standing right on the corner of a table or anything else rectangular: books, rugs, boxes
  • Curling up on a nice warm laptop keyboard or standing directly in front of a heating vent
  • Or, in his risk-taking years, sitting on the spot directly above the pilot light on the stove, or getting as close as he could to a radiator. Once he miscalculated (or fell asleep?) and was left with a small scar on his nose (really just a lighter patch of skin) because of it. He was more careful after that day.
  • “Taking the spot” – anytime anyone would get up from a seat or the bed, he would immediately relocate to the warm spot. He was committed to energy efficiency.
  • Laying on your legs for HOURS and never being the one to initiate getting up. He slept hard when he was on a lap.
  • Sitting in the absolute highest spot he could find (e.g. on top of a plastic stool on top of the refrigerator)
  • Laying in the sun on his blanket in the window seat of our new house
  • Watching potential prey through the window — pigeons, squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies — and tracking them as if he could go get them (and I am sure he’d have been successful had we let him)
  • Winding himself up in sheets and blankets in our bed—he had a way of turning around and around so that he was completely covered, but he always left himself an easy out. It was critical to put your hand on any likely looking lump in the bed before laying down on it. And we always had to make sure Marley didn’t step on him. When he was recovering from surgery, Boris would get under the covers and lay tight alongside Dawn in the bed.
  • He loved jumping into a particular black plastic tote when it was empty. It was the perfect size and shape for him to comfortably sit and look up and out at the world.

He also loved boxes. In fact, Boris was the mayor of Boxtown, a community of 1 located inside our apartment in San Francisco. He was proud of his stewardship and service.

Bo was the first and only Botary Public I am aware of. He would frequently “botarize” things—book covers, important and unimportant papers, shower curtains—by taking a careful bite so that you could see holes made by each of his teeth. Generally, that was Bo’s stamp of disapproval of something in his environment, or maybe just his way of making a mark on the world. (He found a couple other ways to let us know when he was dissatisfied, one of which was “flapping”—he’d grab the edge of a book cover or other piece of cardboard and let it go over and over, making a distinctive and rhythmic flapping sound.)

Boris was usually pretty quiet, but still waters ran deep in his case. He was a very loving, loyal, and devoted friend.

As long as he didn’t forget you. He had this rare but well documented affliction called “non-recognition aggression.” When Marley picked up a scent from outside, such as the many scents you could pick up at a vet’s office, or in a hotel room on a cross-country move, Boris would attack him. Like, for real. We got very good at the routine of keeping them completely separate for days, which was what we had to do to reset Bo’s brain. We’d gotten the interval down to about 3 days the last few years, after which they always came back together. To (all of) our deep relief.

Little did I know when I came into their lives how much I would end up affecting their dynamic. Before I showed up in 2011, Bo would defer to Marley. It didn’t take him long to start asserting his rights to what he wanted after which they started, sometimes, taking turns (or just took advantage of having one parent per cat, which was an ideal ratio). That said, it was a special blessing and occasionally a curse to be “double-catted,” which happened a lot. I’m pretty sure I’ve inflicted musculoskeletal harm on myself by letting Bo lay on my legs overnight and/or as long as he wanted at basically anytime (aside from when I was at my computer). Mostly gentle jealousy was a part of their dynamic and you could bet that when Boris was on one of us, Marley would all of a sudden also want to be there.

Now, two months after Boris’s last night among us as a living cat, things are just not the same. Dawn and Marley and I miss him terribly. He was a rock, he was a foundation, he was a mensch. He was, figuratively and seemingly literally at times, ten feet long, especially when he stretched his whole length along the floor. He loved us, and needed us, with a quiet intensity that made us all feel safe, appreciated, and cared for. He was a good boy and we will love him, and remember him, and celebrate him, forever.

The unavoidable consequences of deliberate sabotage

I couldn’t believe it when I heard it this morning, though I knew somewhere deep down it’d been coming for a long time. The A’s are leaving Oakland.

I left Oakland, too, but this isn’t the same at all. During my 17 years in the Bay Area (10 of those in Oakland), those of you who know me know that I loved going to A’s games despite the Coliseum. I was a season ticket holder from 2005 to about 2019 (aside from one or two of the lean years, when it made more sense to get cheap first or second row tix on StubHub and we weren’t saving our spot to get playoff tickets at face value). During that time we saw scrappy teams expertly assembled by the magician Billy Beane, and ran into familiar people we saw all the time – vendors, pickup baseball buddies, fellow season ticket holders.

My last game at the Coliseum was the last playoff game played there, maybe ever. The current version of the A’s is a shadow of what it once was, and that’s because of the systematic disrespect the current owners (and Manfred) have shown the people of the East Bay. They deserve better.

I had really held out hope that Howard Terminal would happen. I guess I’ve been in denial. The writing has been on the wall probably since Cisco Field didn’t happen in 2006. We A’s fans thought reluctantly at the time, “better Fremont than far away.” Oh, well.

Bob Melvin knew what he was doing when he went to greener pastures after the 2021 season. This day was always going to come sooner or later once John Fisher bought the team. RIP Oakland Athletics — you were great once.

Of course, I post this the same day we get more bad climate news.

What do these two stories have in common? Maybe this is a stretch, but when elites deliberately act in their own interest at the expense of—I don’t know—the little people, they kill what we love. Baseball teams, species, entire ways of life.

It only took 22 years to miss a year.

Society’s most listened-to experts have theorized that time keeps on slippin’ (slippin’, slippin’) into the future. Others have suggested that it keeps flowing like a river, on and on, to the sea.

Technically, I didn’t publish anything on this site in 2022, for the first time since launching it at the turn of the millenium. (I just posted something I wrote and last edited in November, though it probably needed more editing.)

I don’t really have a lot to say right now other than

  1. I’m very happy with my marriage, my house, my cats, and my job.
  2. I have some great friends and family, even though I don’t see them often.
  3. I’m very unhappy with the state of public discourse, our society’s priorities and preoccupations, public health, the media, the economy, and our climate.
  4. I am somewhat more deliberate in deciding how I spend my time these days, or at the very least I am more consciously aware that the amount of time I have left continues to diminish. (See above.)
  5. I miss my parents.
  6. I’m continuing to get better at not putting pressure on myself.

Happy 2023!

RIP, Dad

Pictures of my dad, Jeff Gohlke My dad, Jeff Gohlke, died May 3, 2022, at age 75. Here’s his obituary, which I mainly wrote, with some help from siblings. I put this on social media in a timely fashion but (unlike when I lost my mom) I didn’t immediately post on this blog about it, which is somewhat indicative of my relationship with him.

My stepmom, Carol, is in her early eighties; they had been married 35 years and were each other’s main companion for a long time.

It really sucks to have lost him. In a strange way I feel like I’ve understood him better since he died than I ever did when he was alive, and I think we were more alike than I ever knew. He led a life of public service, which I’ve aspired to do. I do love how outspoken he’d been in recent years about politics. He was a good guy and I really miss him.

No time like the present

I haven’t written much here lately. (I haven’t written much here in twenty years.) But that’s okay.

Every so often I think about writing a blog entry. I log in, write a couple hundred words, and sleep on it.

For three months.

Then I get the urge to write again. So I log back in, re-read, rewrite, update, cut, revise, save a new draft, and log off. This has become a vicious cycle. Each slice of life seems very significant when you only publicly share your thoughts a few times a year.

Sometimes I don’t have sufficient energy to meet my own (unfair and unrealistic) standards. Sometimes I’m afraid to express my opinions—or reveal my human vulnerabilities—to anyone but my inner circle. Sometimes what I write seems glib and reductive. (See “unfair standards.”)

The immediate context is, of course, a worldwide pandemic. We are all doing the best we can—and it really sucks.

The larger context is capitalism. Who knew that a system based on exploiting some segment of the population would prove harmful to human beings (collectively and individually) and our entire ecosystem? (I could go on, but others have done it better before me.)

Allowing myself to be flooded with despair by seemingly intractable problems doesn’t help. But I also will not blithely ignore injustice.

So I will do what I can to help in some incremental way. To do that, I need to take care of myself. Part of that is being okay with my limitations, and being kind and compassionate with myself when I do less than I (unrealistically) expect myself to do. It’s knowing when to push myself and when to take it easy.

I’ve been devouring books in 2021. A lot has been fantasy or science fiction—commonly, with the theme of expanding beyond the Earth’s atmosphere into the immense (and frequently hostile) universe, or transcending our mortal limits in some way. (Cixin Liu, Becky Chambers, Ann Leckie, John Scalzi, Naomi Novik, Brandon Sanderson, Matt Haig, Neal Stephenson, Kim Stanley Robinson, and James S.A. Corey: thank you.) It seems natural to fall back into escapism and expansive thinking at a time like this. I’d recommend it to the extent that it feels okay.

I also recommend taking it easy on yourself and everyone else. I do try to listen to my own advice, really.

I do, at least, allow myself to feel grateful and even proud. Dawn and I have accomplished so much in the last two years. We have our sweet cats, our thriving careers, our friends and family, and of course each other. I take none of this for granted. I continue to fail to meet the (possibly unrealistic) standards I set for myself around getting back in touch with people. (So, if you have my number in your phone, or not, feel free to reach out.)

I’m doing fine. It’s a disorienting and frequently disheartening time to be alive. But I, we—all of us—are resilient.

2021 is done. 2022 — be better!

Little did I know

Today marks exactly one year since we moved to Madison and, despite the pandemic, the move has been exactly what we’d hoped it would be.

large crow or raven on railing outside CLCV's 11th floor window, Oakland, CA, 4/18/2014

When I took this photo and posted it on social media seven years ago to the day, the tradition that crows portend change was very much on my mind. Though I didn’t say it at the time, it was the whole point of posting the picture.

I can’t even express the enormity of all that has happened since then.

Just days later—less than three weeks—we (CLCVers) lost a beloved friend and colleague overnight. Dawn lost a coworker that same month. Her brother fell gravely ill the following year (glioblastoma, the same thing I lost my grandfather to in 1998) and we lost him in 2016. During that time my mom’s health declined much more than we’d realized at the time. Meanwhile, CLCV’s staff structure changed a lot (the vast majority of those who were on the canvass were let go); more were let go in subsequent months. I made a quick pivot to an incredibly demanding (but fruitful) campaign consulting position, but that ended over the winter. (Also… Trump.) I spent around half of 2017 looking for work (and, in retrospect, not enough time with my mom). We tried to get Washington County, Wisconsin, to help my mom and stepdad (learning eventually that they simply didn’t). Then I got hired at PFT. Things got worse for Mom in 2018 and we lost her in 2019. Devastating.

But, wait, there’s more.

Thanks to COVID-19, millions of people have died and many more have been forever changed.

Police continue to kill black people. Our country doesn’t seem to have an answer for mass shootings. Despite the massive relief of having a basically good-faith political party in charge of the executive branch and Congress (barely), our country’s system of government is still structurally biased toward those who already have power — campaign finance, corporate and other tax loopholes, gerrymandering, stacked courts, and so on.

And yet.

As hard as this time has been for me, and immeasurably worse for others, so many good things have happened during that time as well.

And the losses resulted in changes. As happens.

For example, after we lost Mom, and things weren’t as good as they had been at the VA for Dawn, we decided in 2019 to move to Madison in 2020.

Exactly six years after I posted that photo, and one year ago today, we spent our first night as Madisonians (for me, since September 1999). Despite the pandemic, we made it, and are thriving here.

And the pandemic allowed a growing number of people to get a perspective on race that they might not have in other times.

Renewal—losses and gains—death and rebirth—is an unavoidable fact of life.

The losses keep coming. And they will keep coming. All we can do is go on and do the best we can.

[Note: I wrote this April 18 but published it without further edits on May 28, which would have been Mom’s 67th birthday.]

The changing nature of humor in a pandemic

Things that were still funny as of 10:43 pm on 6/4/20

  • Jokes about how slow the Internet is
  • Jokes about hygiene
  • Jokes about not wearing pants
  • Knock-knock jokes
  • Sitcoms not set in hospitals or funeral homes
  • Caricatures of historical figures
  • Pratfalls

Things that are still funny as of 12:24 am on 10/19/20

  • Our own flaws
  • Minor romantic missteps
  • Nothing

Jokes that will never, ever be funny

  • At one time, Donald Trump was President of the United States

The Big Move: Epilogue

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020, 9:04 pm

We are loving the apartment, honestly, which is super lucky given we found it 100% online. Even while sheltering in place, we’re in a great location. If we turn left from the front door we see a lake; turn right and there’s the Capitol building. And the gig is going well, even if I’m totally remote. I’m kind of getting used to that. Last week, my first full week, I had fourteen video meetings in five days. This week, fewer meetings, but lots more email: drafting plans, providing social media help, compiling links, and so on.

So far, so good.

The Big Move: We made it!

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Sunday, April 19, 2020, 6:25 pm

After almost a day here, I think the new apartment is pretty good! It’s bigger than our old place and has great amenities, including a washer and dryer in the unit, a dishwasher, two bathrooms, a balcony, and a heated indoor parking spot. It also has good light most of the day and lots of stores and restaurants nearby (even more than when I lived here 20+ years ago).

Unfortunately, as one might predict would happen in a college town while living relatively near campus, some of our drunken neighbors made insane amounts of noise last night until 4 am. [Ed. note: luckily, this has not been a constant thing, and the noise has been more tolerable than we expected based on night 1.]

Today we picked up brunch and dinner from a coffee shop a few blocks away. It was a neat feeling to walk past the Capitol to get there.

Still exhausted from the drive, but we’re going to slowly get situated. The cats are getting acclimated. They’re glad we didn’t get in the van today! The movers will get here with our stuff between the 22nd and the 24th, and my first day “at” my job is April 22nd.

Monday, April 20, 2020, 6:11 pm

Did a big and successful outing today for:

  • an epic amount of supplies;
  • a cable modem and cable box, critical for working from home;
  • and my work laptop, monitor, mouse, and keyboard. (Kudos to the folks at DoIT for getting my stuff set up quickly!)

My initial impression of the people of Madison in relation to COVID-19 is that many of them will likely get very sick at some point. Masks are few and far between and social distancing is rare. We want to be at home as much as possible at this point, so it’s good we like the apartment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020, 1:24 pm

The movers left an hour ago, and I had my first meeting with my boss today. Aside from the intense amounts of unpacking and reorganizing we have to do, I can now say this: We have successfully moved.

The Big Move: York to Madison

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Saturday, April 18, 2020, 11:26 am

We are now in Iowa—just one state away from our new life!

Saturday, April 18, 2020, 11:11 pm

We are in our new place! Got here a little before 8 pm. Our rental minivan is in our new underground parking spot.

We knew that our stuff was highly unlikely to get here before we did. So that we would have something to sleep on the first few nights, Dawn, brilliantly, ordered an air mattress to be delivered here before we got here. So, right now, Marley is on the air mattress with us and Boris is hiding under a blanket at the end of the bed. We are exhausted but happy.

April 18 driving stats:

  • 9:26 am to 7:40 pm (10 hours, 14 minutes)
  • 449 mi
  • 7:20 driving; 2:56 breaks

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