We Are the World

Two days ago, mi novia bought a new cat tree house—an artificial, carpet-covered structure designed for a cat to play, exercise, relax, and sleep on—for my study. It replaces a small painter’s ladder Phaedra (the cat) often uses to peer out my study windows at the outside world. The tree house is almost identical in appearance to one we keep in the breakfast nook. Despite its outward appearance, though, something about the new structure is, apparently, radically different. When mi novia carried the cat into my study to introduce her to her new viewing platform, Phaedra turned into a growling, yowling, screaming, scratching, biting, fiend. I decided to make the introduction, with the same result. Phaedra hissed, bared her teeth, and made menacing noises reminiscent of Regan in The Exorcist. We assume the problem has to do with the fact that the tree house was visited by kittens that roamed freely in the store from which mi novia bought the thing. Regardless of whether the cat tree house is awash in kitten odors, pheromones left by feline rapists, or fierce demonic spirits, Phaedra wants almost nothing to do with the thing. Once or twice, she has approached it and sniffed around, but soon she turns and leaves the room. If we attempt to carry her near it, her satanic persona erupts; full-throated guttural growls, claws at the ready, etc., etc. Attempting to ease her into a relationship with the tree house is unwise and quite dangerous. We have decided to let her take her sweet time. Eventually, whatever demon that took possession of the tree house will leave…or the odors that trigger Phaedra’s murderous impulses will fade away. If not, though, we will remove the problem from the house. Beforehand, though, we will have to come to a mutual understanding of whether the problem is the tree house or its intended resident.


Once upon a time, I thought my scraggly moustache and beard improved my appearance. Lately, though, I have begun to question my earlier perceptions about the hair on my face. I wonder whether they add even a single scintilla of attractiveness. And I wonder whether the time devoted to their occasional upkeep (trimming, shaping, etc.) is worth the effort. The facial real estate they save me from shaving regularly is fairly modest. When I wake each morning and look in the mirror, I see an unkempt homeless vagabond. Only after I spend a few minutes with a comb can I corral my facial hair enough to make it more or less presentable. At least not deeply embarrassing. All that having been said, I am giving thought to becoming clean-shaven again. I spent roughly 69 years without the demands of a moustache and beard; maybe I should spend the next 69 years the same way. I don’t know, though. I am not quite sure whether to shave or to give myself a few days or weeks to think it over. If I were to shave, then decide it was a mistake, it would take quite a long time to replace my thin, slow-growing facial hair. During that time, I would look like that unkempt homeless vagabond who visits my mirror almost every morning—not just in the morning, but around the clock. Ach! Is it just vanity? Who knows? Time will tell. Maybe.


A photograph I saw yesterday showed the stark difference between the pickup trucks of several years ago and the ones that devour multiple parking spaces today. The older pickup in the photo looked like a tiny toy compared to the newer, monstrously large pickup next to it. Except for their tendency to drink gasoline and, lately, their size, I might want a pickup. Their size, of course, has quite a lot to do with their addiction to gasoline. An article in  I read this morning on euronews.com reported that Parisians have “voted to triple parking fees for SUVs to make the city greener and friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists.” Though the initiative to increase parking fees was triggered by a desire to improve the city in advance of hosting the Olympic Games, the tendency toward increasing the size of SUVs with every new model year probably had a lot to do with it. Parisian Mayor Anne Hidalgo said “The time has come to break with this tendency for cars that are always bigger, taller, wider.” I suppose I have bent to the desire for big, comfortable vehicles, but I was helped along by manufacturers that seem to enjoy doubling the size of vehicles every ten years. I would be delighted if I could snap my fingers to shrink the size of cars and SUVs (and pickups, of course). Our streets would be easier to maneuver, less crowded, and far friendlier to cyclists and pedestrians. My fantasy, though, is a waste of creative thought; it won’t be long before extension ladders will be required to climb into SUVs; they’re already necessary to get inside some pickup trucks. Bah! I believe I have transformed from the period of geezerhood to curmudgeonhood.


Last night, we watched The Greatest Night in Pop, a documentary about the incredible complexity and skill involved in recording “We Are the World.” I was amazed at the number of recording artists involved in the process. And my admiration for Quincy Jones, who orchestrated the recording, grew exponentially as I watched the film. I felt the same appreciation for the critical role played by Lionel Richie in making the recording happen. The producers, director, artists, sound technicians—everyone involved—were beyond impressive; they were, in a sense, magicians. I was stunned by the speed of taking the idea from inception to completion. The documentary is quite entertaining and well worth watching, in my opinion. Oh, and moving.


I wish We Are the World had brought focus to the famine in Africa and caused people the world over to reflect on the intense need for people on this planet to come together to solve our problems. Sadly, that is simply wishful thinking.  Every time I hear that song, I feel a catch in my throat and my eyes begin to glaze. So very sad that the message of that song did not change the world in a fundamental way.


Time to abandon fantasy and, instead, confront the real world.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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5 Responses to We Are the World

  1. Debbie, I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I think you’ll really enjoy the documentary! You’re very kind to compliment my writing.

  2. Debbie Kirilov says:

    Definitely going to watch The Greatest Night in Pop! Reading about Novia bringing that used cat tree into your office was hilarious. Your description of Phaedra’s antics was even funnier. Do you even realize how gifted you are? Oh, and Novia is gifted for bringing a wicked cat tree into the home! I think it was for entertainment purposes.

  3. Yes, David, Quincy and Lionel did, indeed, hit it out of the park! I loved Quincy’s “Check your egos at the door” sign! And witnessing his incredible ability (with Lionel’s helpful finesse) to manage around and through a single night with those 40 stars was just stunning!

    I sprayed catnip on the cat tree…no breakthrough yet!

    Sue, I’m glad you enjoyed the story…I am sure the cat will, eventually, get over her demonic possession! 🙂

  4. David Legan says:

    I, too, watched The Greatest Night in Pop last night. It was a Netflix victory, and the same things that impressed you, impressed me. And one more thing that you did not mention. If you watched Get Back, the onsite documentary about the Beatles last concert, you were treated to four hours of a display of dysfunction. Days went by with no progress, each one seemed entitled (save Ringo), Harrison actually quit and took his toys home. And those guys had been working together for fifteen years. Then, Quincey and Lionel put together an all-night recording session with FORTY of the biggest stars in the business…Bob and Cindi and Diana and Willie and Springsteen and Kenny Rogers and Hornsby…not strangers but not colleagues and they hit it out of the park. “Check your egos at the door” Quincy told them…and every performer except Waylon did. The comparison was stark and revealing.

    Oh, the cat thing. Try catnip!

  5. Sue MacDevitt says:

    I love the cat tree house story….made me smile John!

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