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A Personal Blog Today….

Oct 15

In Friends at 8:13am

No speed light stuff today. Apologies….

About a dozen years ago my wife Annie made a pretty courageous leap of life and changed everything, all at once. What does one do when you shuck off all that is familiar, and move to a new and strange set of walls, have no money and a couple of sticks of furniture?

Well, when you take a chance like that, and rescue yourself, sometimes, you reach out at the same time and rescue others. So Annie the animal lover packed herself off to the shelter, and thought she had decided to take home a little black ball of fur when, out of the same tiny fur ball, another head popped out. Brothers. She took ‘em both.

Formula One fan that she is, one became Nigel, after Nigel Mansell, and the other Arie, after Arie Luyendyk, both legendary drivers. The three of them made a home, and a life together.

And then I showed up on the doorstep, courting Annie. Trying desperately to impress, I did all the usual guy stuff. Calls, dinners, movies, walks and talks. Flowers. First time I sent roses, I called the local shop, and made the order, and when I gave the address, the smart guy who took the call said, “Oh yeah, yeah, I know that place. We’ve delivered out there before! Lots!”

I was left of course to, uh, clear my throat, and say something diplomatic, like, “Yes, well, of course. I’m sure the lady in question is not without her admirers.” I think the shop is called Wise Ass Florist.

In the midst of all my desperate attempts to be noticed by this lovely lady, I wasn’t completely aware that my activities were being measured and judged by another. A sage and protective guardian–Nigel.

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See, Annie trusted Nigel’s instincts so thoroughly that if he didn’t like you, you were toast. She placed a lot of faith in Nigel’s ability to size up a guy’s intentions and character, and in fact, if Nigel squinted hard at you, and slunk upstairs, you might be in for some tough sledding.

Thankfully, Nigel and I had it going on right from the first, probably ‘cause we’re pretty similar. Couple of goofball lugs, very motivated by the phrase, “What’s for dinner?” He did look at me hard, though, at first. Looked at me, looked over at Annie, and then back at me. And then let me know the deal, in his way. It was like, okay pal, you have my permission, but if you ever don’t treat her right, it’s between you and me, understand? And it’s been our understanding ever since.

We’ve watched a lot of TV together-he likes NCIS. There’ve been mornings when he would help me out by walking over my keyboard and sending email. Other mornings when Annie’s on the road and I’m sacked out, tapping my forehead gently with his paw to remind me it was past breakfast. Keeping me company on one of his favorite perches–our flatbed scanner. (Drives folks in the office a bit nuts, having a scanner full of cat hair.)

He was pretty good with small flash, too. He really got into the Strobist series.

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I’m struggling writing this, mostly with the sense of tense. I’m trying to describe this stuff in lighthearted fashion, as if it’s still going on. It’s not. It’s going to be hard thinking about Nigel in the past tense.

A little while back, seeing Nigel not be his usual, gregarious self, Annie took him to the vet. The diagnosis was Hemangiosarcoma, among the most aggressive and deadliest of cancers. He had been dealt a tough hand of cards. It mostly strikes dogs, rarely cats, which confirms my suspicion he was, indeed, part pooch. (How does that happen? How does a few bastard rogue cells completely snuff an ebullient little life force like Nigel in 3 short weeks?) He retreated into dark places, under beds and into cabinets. We did our best to make him feel comfortable. He knew what was up. The wisdom in those eyes of his spoke volumes, right to the last.

Now he’s gone. He’s in the ground, with a small marker. I put roses on his grave. I have to figure they were his favorite ‘cause whenever I gave them to Annie, he would try to eat them.

I’m writing this, knowing I can’t read it to him, the way I would occasionally read to him about the Yankees or the Knicks from the morning news feed. But I think we had a good last conversation. Told him I was sorry about trying to teach him to be a VAL. I thought that little speed light harness thing was gonna work:-) Of course, he quickly let me know he was more suited to the director’s chair than to grip work.

Thanks, bud. Thanks for watching over Annie. Thanks for letting me in the house. Thanks for occasionally letting me use my pillow.

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Just, you know, thanks…..and Godspeed…I’ll see you on the other side. More tk….

337 Responses to “A Personal Blog Today….”

Rick Massie says:

on October 18, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Sorry for your loss. Those animals certainly become a powerful part of the family, I keep telling myself my dog and cats are going to live forever. If only…

A nice tribute to Nigel. Sounds like he will certainly be missed. My thoughts are with you.

tzb says:

on October 18, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I know a lot about what you had to go through… Been in these shoes twice over the last years. I often smiled seeing Nigel in your photos and videos, as he reminded me of our cats, and now this news really did sadden me. I am sorry for your loss and these aren’t empty words.
Godspeed.

Mark Vinett says:

on October 18, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Hi Joe and Annie,

My condolences to you both on your loss of Nigel. My wife and I lost our beautiful tuxedo cat Abbey last fall to an infection. The loss was very traumatic for us. I got all emotional and teary with your blog. These litter gifts from God warm our hearts with such unconditional love….and warm our laps with kneading on a cold winter’s day….And can bring a big man to tears….

Joe I love to read your blog. Your writing style makes me feel like your talking right to me….like we are in the same room. I love your Pics. Just picked up your new Life book….Life was a great magazine. I always looked for that magazine when my dad came home from the post office.

Again my condolences to you both.

Mayra Martinez says:

on October 18, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Just made it home after DLWS ME, and read your post. We have two cats, and they are members of our family (not ‘just pets’). I am sorry to know that Nigel is no longer in this world, but he’ll live on as long as you remember him. Our condolences to you, Annie and Arie.

Chris Wanamaker says:

on October 18, 2010 at 7:20 pm

As a cat owner myself, I have a hard time imagining what life would be like without my “Bella”, “Peanut” and “Madeline”. Joe and Annie, I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you two.

Deb says:

on October 18, 2010 at 8:39 pm

So sorry for your loss. My old man is sitting with me right now. I treasure everyday with him and pray that he will be waiting for me on the other side. I’m sure Nigel will be waiting for you!

Deb

Zahir Turion says:

on October 18, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Hi Joe … this sentence is very touching “tapping my forehead gently with his paw to remind me it was past breakfast. Keeping me company on one of his favorite perches–our flatbed scanner. ”

hope you’ll be ok soon :) be strong :)

Dwayne D.C. Tucker II says:

on October 19, 2010 at 6:44 am

Joe,

I’m sorry about the lost;
That was a beautiful read I almost dropped a tear for ya. I’ve seen him on the blog a few times already he was a beautiful cat! :(

Keep strong.

DT.
Miami, Florida | Nassau, Bahamas

DAR says:

on October 19, 2010 at 9:23 am

How sad to lose a furry friend like Nigel. I read the blog only because of the beautiful shot of his shiny fur that reminded me so much of my “Olive” who is also out there frolicking with Nigel now. She was my best friend and also surveyed every guy who came to court me. She would bite those she didn’t like. Instant decision on who was right for us. She did decide on one however but shortly thereafter she had to be put down also. She was 15 at the time. She was right about her cat bite decisions.
I miss her very much and your photo made me think of her again. Thanks for that wonderful write up too. My condolences to you and Annie.
DAR
Florida

Paul Fletcher says:

on October 19, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Joe – I am really really sorry to hear about Nigel. We have two cats, one very much like him. Our cats love to be with me in my office when I am working on imges. The one will get up from a soft cushy place just to come sleep by me on a hard pelican case. Our cat like Nigel loved to be carried, get & give neck messages and just be by us.

Hope comes in the morning,

blessing on you & your wife,

Paul

yael says:

on October 19, 2010 at 1:25 pm

So sorry for your loss. i’ve just lost my 20+ years old cat Fuki, last Monday, 8 days ago. She died i believe, in her sleep, as i found her upon returning home. I’m so grieving over her, and i can understand how you must feel. She was a light coloured persian cat, sweet and innocent. I’m sure Nigel had the best of homes and lives. Maybe Nigel and my little Fuski are playing now together in cat’s heaven.
May he rest in peace.

Jeff Klofft says:

on October 19, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Joe,

So sorry to hear of your loss. Our black cat got a form of digestive cancer at age 8 and we had to give her a steroid pill daily (never a fun thing to do with a cat). She lasted on that regime for over 5 years. It was still tough to see her go. You certainly gave Nigel a worthy send-off.

Jeff

Jack Flemmings says:

on October 19, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Joe,

So sorry to hear about Nigel. Prayers for peace and comfort to you and Annie. My wife and I also lost our Sweet Pea in May of last year. Still very hard to think about. I read your post to Judy, she wishes I hadn’t, and thought I could make it through but broke down slightly toward the end.

I truly believe they know when it’s time. Sweet Pea came over to me for one last belly rub, though she cut it short, something she would never do and then went over to Judy for one last kiss. She was weak, most likely hurting, but said good-bye with lady like dignity.

Now the rest of the story: We had no plans to replace her, not for a long time anyway. But my animal lover wife took in a stray a little after that, that was in bad shape and expecting kittens. She delivered five healthy babies on July 3, 2009, amazing considering how sick she was. She didn’t live much longer after that. Through circumstances we ended up keeping the first born. Named him Liberty but he gets called Henry mostly. It’s bittersweet but Liberty has some how wound himself into our lives. I think we hold back our heart a little, at least for a while, but somehow we have another furry friend without intending.

Blessings to you and Annie….

Dianne A says:

on October 19, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Joe – sooo sorry for your loss. One reader said it wonderfully – a friend in a cat suit. I’ve had several of those cat-suit-friends over the years and it doesn’t get any easier to lose them. They become part of you – plain and simple. Sending good wishes to you and Annie and Arie. Go find another furry friend who will not replace Nigel, but will add yet another love to your life.

Jeff says:

on October 20, 2010 at 2:19 am

Been following your blog for some time and whenever I try and explain to my wife some amazing thing you managed to do, she immediately knows who you are – “the guy with the cat”.

Both me and my wife started our mornings with red swollen eyes. We too have our nigel whom I had to ask permission to court and has since become “my” cat. But time is also moving on for him and we’ll probably soon be in a similar position…
Our sincere condolences – even we will miss Nigel.

Gemma Harris says:

on October 20, 2010 at 10:29 am

i understand how you feel. am sure nigel is looking over you all blinking her love back to you x

Paul says:

on October 20, 2010 at 10:37 am

Allthough your post is written in your personal style, which is funny, positive, full of good energy, you’ve transmitted a deep sorrow. I hope Nigel is in cat Heaven where he gets to eat all the roses he wants…

Ken Lim says:

on October 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm

In how you put pen to paper, is why we enjoy your work and your personality. With this entry, Nigel is not just a cat, he is your child, you made him human to us and shared his quirkiness in your videos. Again, the uniqueness of your personality is portrayed through your videos, either instructional or a skit with God.

Thanks for sharing your inner most thoughts with us.

Paul says:

on October 20, 2010 at 6:43 pm

So sorry to read about Nigel. Being a photographer and a photography lecturer in the UK I’ve bought your books and watched your films on You Tube and, as a cat owner, particularly enjoyed Nigel’s cameo appearance. We lost a cat too this Summer and it leaves a hole in our lives that we can at least fill with happy memories.

Paul

Wwt says:

on October 21, 2010 at 5:34 am

As usual, powerful, moving and illuminating words (pun at least partly intended). Like one of the other commenterrs, I like to pretend to myself that our lovable furball (that also leaves hair on the scanner — and everywhere else) will be with us forever… I’m so sorry for your loss — our thoughts are with you.

Tom Snide says:

on October 21, 2010 at 8:06 am

Joe -

Thoughts and prayers for you buddy. I just lost my cat of 17 years and thought I was silly to be so sad when he was gone. But you hit the nail on the head, they come into your life and become part of the family. When they pass away, it feels like you’re losing part of your past. In my case, my wife and I had a cat before we had a house, kids (now 15 and 12). So it was sort of like losing our first child.

Great photos. Shows how powerful a decent photo is, in it’s ability to preserve a moment in time and later evoke all the memories and feelings of that time.

Take care,

Tom

SFW ’10

Curtis Thomson says:

on October 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Thank you Joe for sharing Nigel’s life with all of us. Felt like I knew the little guy. We have two very special cats ourselves, brothers. who were rescued from the wild as kittens where they had been abandoned to an irrigation pond with the buzzards literally circling overhead. Both are alive today, sixteen years later and leading the good life with us here in Northern California wine country.

Those who have never had the good fortune of being owned by a cat, can not appreciate the
level of attachment that is possible with these furry, human like critters. My sincere condolences to you and your wife. It would seem that Nigel also led the good life and
judging by the number and content of the previous responses, his memory lives on.

Ben Madden says:

on October 21, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Joe,
Man, that’s a tough call. Nothing to be said that can ease the hurt. Just know a fellow cat guy sends his prayers.

Alistair Forrest says:

on October 23, 2010 at 5:24 am

My wife made me read this. Look, I’m a tough guy alright? Sniff… okay, my keyboard’s in danger of getting wet now :(

Rosanne Aresty says:

on October 23, 2010 at 8:55 am

We too have a cat-woofer in our house as I call our beloved cat, Knubble. We found Knubble on a giant rock formation called the Knubble and well it stuck. Knubble is still with us and he is a huge furry cat that we actually allow to have a life outside, so he is strong and kind of scary looking with big claws. But, in reality, he is a big mush and cannot get enough attention and love; he is the cat that walks my daughter to the bus every morning only to trudge back looking for more food. Which he always gets. Such is the life of a cat that is well-loved. Lots of food; most comfortable chair in the house; cat treats; lots of love and belly scratches. And your Nigel had the same in your house. You clearly loved him and that is what is important.

Paul says:

on October 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Well said Joe

Abhijit Bhatlekar says:

on October 24, 2010 at 12:39 am

Dear Joe,

I am very sorry to hear about Nigel. Like you, your family also has became a part of my home, thanks to The Moment…. Like Annie, Clair & Caitlin, Nigel also was a fond friend. I cant find words rightnow. My prayers…thats all.

Abhijit

Jesse says:

on October 25, 2010 at 5:40 am

Keep your head up. Because that’s the only direction you’re going to see Nigel from now on. ;)

Daryl Chan says:

on October 25, 2010 at 9:48 am

Been following you for years and was in your class in Hollywood. Been busy and haven’t read your blog for a couple of weeks now only to read it today to find out about Nigel. Always a fun partner in your stories and videos he’ll be missed. Take care good friend.

Susan says:

on October 25, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Awww…so sorry, Joe. Know you miss him terribly…but rest assured, no doubt he’ll be hogging your pillow again one day on the other side…

Sue Thomas says:

on October 28, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Your post brought tears to my eyes. I’m so sorry and know that you must miss Nigel so very much.

Jonathan Markworth says:

on October 28, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Joe, Carly (a nearly human goldendoodle) sleeps on my pillow when I am away and looks at me strangely when I would like to do the same upon my return. I know. The big world focuses to a fine point and then it grows again. Jonathan

Melba says:

on October 28, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Joe, so sorry to hear about Nigel. I will miss hearing about your adventures. I just lost Kool-Aid, my 13 Yr. old 30 Lb. bright orange tom cat to a stroke. I bought him from a soup wagon in Wonju, Korea. He spent months under my bed only coming out when I had left for work to eat and use the litter box. Once he came out, he fell in love with me. My friends used to say, “that silly cat think he’s a dog.” Following me from room to room never wanting me to be out of his sight. Each morning when I left for work he would cry. Always waiting at the door when I came home. I will miss him for a very long time! It’s funny how such a simple little creature can bring such unconditional love into our lives. Best wishes Melba

Kim says:

on October 30, 2010 at 6:25 am

I’m sorry to read this…I fear the day that my Pixel goes off to cat heaven :(

Beautiful story…I’m sure Nigel is up there somewhere…following you whereever you go now.

RIP Nigel!

Kevin H. Stecyk says:

on October 31, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Not only are you wonderful photographer, but also a wonderful storyteller. They are the same, aren’t they?

It’s amazing how much pleasure our furry friends bring us.

I wish you and Annnie well as you miss and grieve for your close friend Nigel.

Matt Staples says:

on November 3, 2010 at 6:02 am

*hugs*

Chris Ball says:

on November 6, 2010 at 2:50 am

I’m sure God caught him before he fell. Long may he watch over you

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