Tag: Cats of University Heights

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The (Honorary) Cats of University Heights: Promise

On Feb. 16, 2019, my wife and I happened upon an unexpected apartment open house, in North Park, but only a few blocks beyond our neighborhood’s boundary. The complex’s center courtyard, surrounded by cute cottages, was lush with greenery and trees; the atmosphere was tranquil. In the back, two upstair flats topped garages that opened into the alley behind. One of them, a two-bedroom, was larger than our residence, for $210-monthly less money. The landlord had owned the property for nearly 40 years. We liked his character, and that of the vacant unit.

We were first applicants, and the gent called the next morning to offer us the place. Annie and I walked back, spent two hours looking around, and discussed whether or not we would accept. Massive number of windows would welcome warming rays from sunrise to sunset. We had to say yes, and left a deposit check equivalent to one month’s rent. In the afternoon, we returned to measure for placement of furniture and to assess late-day sunlight and airflow. Then the negatives started to pile up in our minds. Among them: With windows open, the place was warm, not breezy, which forebode overly-hot during summertime; an odd smell emanating from the kitchen bothered us; and prospect of street parking, which a San Diego bike path project would limit during years-long construction, looked to be challenging. After further deliberation, I called the owner to tell him, with great angst, we wouldn’t take the apartment after all.

What does any of this have to do with today’s kitty?

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The Cats of University Heights: Danger

Three days ago, while driving down Cleveland, my wife and I spotted a fluffy black run diagonally across the street—a dangerous maneuver during heavier traffic as residents returned to the neighborhood from their jobs. This afternoon, while walking along Tyler to the grocery store, I passed by the beastie, relaxing on a doorstep.

Nickname Danger seems appropriate, given the perilous context of the first sighting, although calm—safety— marked the second seeing. I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image, which is a close-crop. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/200 sec, 28mmm; 3:13 p.m. PST.

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The Cats of University Heights: Keen

When not scaring off beasties, Fujifilm GFX 50R, with Fujinon GF63mmF2.8 R WR lens attached, produced consistently better portraits for this series than Leica Q2. The 51.4-megapixel, 43.8 x 32.9 mm medium-format sensor matched to 50mm film-equivalent glass delivers fantastic detail and dynamic range, allowing the shooter to crop-in during post-production. The more compact, 28mm, fixed-lens, 47.3-megapixel full-frame (24 x 36 mm sensor) Q2 needs to be closer to subjects because of focal length, which cannot be physically changed. Proximity often isn’t an option for felines, particularly one suspected of belonging to a feral colony.

The Featured Image, of a tabby that I nickname Keen for alertness, is example. The Q2 portrait, while good enough, is less than what I’ve come to expect from using the 50R. But that camera is gone, and the Leica better fits my shooting style. I’ll explain why in an eventual product review. For now, photo vitals, aperture manually set: f/4, ISO 100, 1/250 sec, 28mm, 2:21 p.m. PST, Jan. 19, 2020. Location: Georgia, near Monroe.

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The Cats of University Heights: Spy

Nestled along the neighborhood’s canyons are several dead-end streets where I rarely venture—being they’re out of the way and some guy carrying a camera is an attention-getter for home Nest and Ring surveillance, of which there is plenty. On Jan. 22, 2020, on a whim, I walked down Proctor Place for the first time in months, and there spotted the series‘ fifty-fifth feline found behind door or window.

I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image—the best portrait of several where the shorthair looks at something in the foliage. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/100 sec, 28mm; 3:24 p.m. PST. I dub this kitty Spy, for its spying eyes and mine perceived to be if any nosey, Nextdoor neighbor noticed me.

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The Cats of University Heights: Ash, Too

The Louisiana parade follows Huck with another: Ash (yep, real name). The grey and white lives on the next block, where he plays territorial tippy-toe with Bandit and buddies up to Nelson; the two are street mates, not house companions, which makes their getting-along a surprising relationship.

My quest to photograph Ash has been challenging—so much that my failure over several days to snag even a single focused shot greatly contributed to the decision to abandon Sigma fp and return for refund. Even Leica Q2, which produced the Featured Image and companions, missed the mark. The best composed portrait puts the focus point somewhere else, and the cat is completely blurred. Finally, on Jan. 23, 2020, when Ash made his best appearance yet, patience and manual focusing got good enough photos. They’re not as sharp as I would want, being close crops, but the banter with Nelson makes them keepers—and I would have been monumentally miffed if they hadn’t been.

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The Cats of University Heights: Huck

Is that a neighborhood newcomer I see—but not yet a yearling? As my wife and I walked along Louisiana today, Huck (real name) appeared from behind a car, at the same property where Princess Leia and I first met about 19 months earlier. Last year, the Wilcoxes considered renting an affordable apartment in the same building. But the two bedrooms received no meaningful direct sunlight, making them too cold and dim for our liking.

Anne and I may not be Huck’s neighbors, but he has plenty—some of which may hissy-fit over territory. Among the other profiled, feisty felines seen on the street—along the four blocks between Adams and Meade—or known to live there: Amazon, Bandit, Daniel TigerDarth Mew, DonutsFluffy, Ginger, Gracie (deceased), Jedi, Milo, Nelson, Patriot, Royal, SnowStripe, and Topper.

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The Cats of University Heights: Buttercup

Along most sidewalks in the neighborhood, trees—the majority palms—line the streets. Telephone poles, and their accompanying tangle of above (or below) ground wires, are relegated to alleys behind. The fifty-forth feline found behind door or window illustrates just how ugly and knotted the high-wires can be. There’s a metaphor here somewhere about California culture’s obsession with all things pretty and manicured being a facade for frightful chaos within.

On Jan. 17, 2020, using Leica Q2, I captured the Featured Image of this sleeping, sunning beauty in the alley between Georgia and Park Blvd. First sighting was weeks earlier, however. I waited for the kitty to nap during a time of day that provided maximum illumination with minimal shadows. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/640 sec, 28mm; 3:15 p.m. PST.

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The Cats of University Heights: Autumn

On Oct. 3, 2019, I got a far-from-the-sidewalk view of a blackie, while walking along Campus between Tyler and Van Buren. Three-and-a-half months later, and no second-sighting, time is come to add the shorthair, whom I nickname Autumn, to the series.

The Featured Image comes from iPhone XS, as I had hoofed it to the grocery store—expecting to carry back several bulky bags—and left at home my camera. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/390 sec, 52mm (film equivalent; EXIF records 6mm); 2:27 p.m. PDT. The portrait is a 90-percent crop.

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The Cats of University Heights: Petri

Look who has a new neighbor: Lily and Maxie. I have seen Storm, once on the same block, while Giotto and Striker have moved away. But we count them anyway when introducing the forty-sixth sighted Alabama Street kitty. I met 12 year-old Petri and his delightful owner on Jan. 17, 2020. They moved to the neighborhood around Thanksgiving, after driving across America: Three days on the road, and the feline behaved bravely all the way.

The Featured Image, captured using Leica Q2, deserves some context. Petri’s mom and I talked for many minutes while he hung back by the front door. Later, when he ventured out, she asked if he would like some supper. Surely she has posed the question previously, if his reaction indicates anything. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/3.5, ISO 125, 1/50 sec, 28mm; 4:02 p.m. PST.

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The Cats of University Heights: Glory

For Caturday, we correct a misidentification. With so many beasties that look similar—all-blacks, particularly—one can be mistaken for another. On Jan. 30, 2019, I captured a fresh portrait of Roadie; markings match previous photos perfectly. Nineteen days later, I snapped another, on a porch fairly close to the curb where she had been previously photographed. Given the proximity of time and location, and cursory examination of feline features, I presumed both shots represented the same animal.

Day before yesterday, I learned from the owner of Herbie, The Love Bug and Sparky that Roadie disappeared, presumably deceased, after losing weight and becoming feeble. In the Flickr caption to the 1-30-19 picture, I observed that she “looked considerably thinner than” when profiled eight months earlier. “I wonder why Roadie is skinnier now”. The Feb. 18, 2019 photo shows a much larger, healthy tabby, whose lower leg markings don’t match Roadie’s. I let my excitement seeing her somewhere other than the street and in better physical condition cause my judgement to stray. The later image is another animal.

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The Cats of University Heights: Sparky

Occasionally patience pays, as is the situation with Sparky, whose name I learned today. We made brief acquaintance about 9 months ago outside the home where also lives Herbie, The Love Bug. I have seen the newcomer sometimes since but deferred adding him to the series in hopes of learning his identity and hearing his story. This morning, while walking with my wife, I saw both cats’ caretaker tending the lawn and asked her about him, finally.

She had been a volunteer at the San Diego Animal Shelter, which the County turned over responsibilities to the Humane Society on July 1, 2018. Because of feline overcrowding resulting from the switchover, some cats were scheduled to transition to the animal afterlife, so to speak, rather than to the new facilities. Sparky was on the kill list. That last day of June. Herbie’s owner quite literally saved him from the executioner, by sudden adoption. Conjure up whatever cliché movie moment you like, where a governor pardons someone on Death Row seconds before the lethal injection.

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The Cats of University Heights: Fluffy

For reasons that must make sense to someone in city planning, a bike lane is in early stages of construction down Meade in my neighborhood going out to North Park. Traffic is rerouted from Alabama and Louisiana, as road crews work on some kind of traffic circle(s)—among several forthcoming “traffic calming measures”, according to project coordinators.

“The Georgia-Meade Bikeway will run along Georgia Street between Robinson Avenue and Howard Avenue, shift to Howard Avenue for one block, and continue on Florida Street to Meade Avenue”, explains the project page. “The bikeway will run along Meade Avenue between Park Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue”. Crews started digging up the intersection at Alabama around Christmas 2019 and are expected to continue working for six months locally. The entire thing is planned to be completed in 2022.

What does any of this have to do with our Caturday tabby?