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The Great Cat Moving Disaster of 2008

I like LA, I just don’t love it. That’s why I moved back to Massachusetts. As regular MoparMax readers will know, I pretty much spent the first two thirds of my life in rural Massachusetts before heading to Los Angeles in 1991. At the time, I was struggling to find a career that justified my college degree – with little luck. So I loaded up my ’76 Volare wagon with all of my junk and headed to California.

Now, some 16 years later I actually find myself missing the change of seasons. While I’m not about to bash on California’s sweet weather, you can’t beat spring, summer and fall in New England. About that winter thing, I’ll just stay indoors for that quarter of each year. Another thing about California I never got used to was the traffic. I had a job at Hot Rod magazine that was literally 31 miles away from my front door in El Monte. So how long did it take to make the commute each morning? How about two hours. Don’t know about you, but spending two hours in crawling traffic twice a day is not good for the mind, spirit or body.

Obviously, there are millions of Californians for whom these hassles are no big deal. But for me I finally decided to sell my digs in Cali – a nasty little plot of dirt with two cottages, 4 cats and 6 cars – and move the works east about 3200 miles. Fortunately, the dirt beneath the “Hillbilly Hell Shack” – as me and my pals called the place – turned out to have enough value to set me up with a nice place in the tranquil town of North Brookfield, Massachusetts. The new place was built in 1890 and has four floors – counting the basement and attic – plenty of room for my massive collection of Super Stock magazines and a few articles of clothing.

As for my fleet of six cars, the altered wheelbase Rampage Dart (outlined elsewhere in this edition of MoparMax), a ’67 Dart sedan powered by a 520 cube Stage V Hemi Conversion motor, a ’69 Dodge A100 van, an ’84 Mustang GT convertible, an altered wheelbase ’81 Fairmont (don’t ask), and an altered wheelbase ’63 Nova, the entire lot was transported inside one truck by Intercity Lines for a reasonable fee. Alright, at nearly ten-grand, the transportation wasn’t cheap, but it sure beat attempting to drive, FAX or teleport the wacky assortment to the other end of our great nation. Plus I was secure in the knowledge the truck was enclosed and insured for a million bucks in the event of Big Trouble. Plus, they even let me load each car with my stuff. In the end, I had over a ton of my junk tucked away in the vehicles – mainly in the A100 van – so I saved the cost of renting a U-Haul.

So what about those four cats? This is where things take a funny and tragic turn. I’m not a big fan of cats. I actually prefer dogs as pets, but in the residential neighborhood encircling the Hillbilly Hell Shack, a barking dog is the last thing neighbors need to hear. Relations were stressful enough with frequent late night comings and goings of my barely muffled Hemi Dart. So I lowered my standards and went with cats. All of them except for one were strays I slowly adopted one by one. When they got comfortable enough I trapped them and took them to the vet to be spayed or neutered (or both depending on the cat’s attitude).

The one cat that wasn’t a random critter was a gift to me by the late Gray Baskerville, with whom I worked during my seven years at Hot Rod magazine. It was an honor to know Gray and when he said a litter of kittens appeared on the fringe of his beautiful secluded south Pasadena digs, I took two, naming them “Warm Milk”, and “And Cookies”. Warm Milk ends up going to an ex-girlfriend who changed its name to Sweet Pea. A car runs it over shortly thereafter. That leaves And Cookies with plenty of explaining to do for the (now) goofy name.

Okay, getting back to Operation Move The Damned Cats to Massachusetts, my plan was to buy a really cheap sad-on-the-outside-but-happy-on-the-inside kind of used car, load the four cats in the thing and drive from LA to Massachusetts. If they crapped and pissed all over the thing, who’d care? Just throw it away once the mission is accomplished.

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