Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Midnight, And The Kitties Are Sleeping

Well, thirty-five people have wandered into this blog, seven by invitation, the rest, I guess, because they were expecting to see gladiators fighting space aliens, or they were looking for goats to send to Botswana (Howdy, Mr. Clinton!)

Joaquin Andujar, pitcher, philosopher, self-proclaimed "One Tough Dominican", famously observed, "There is one word in America that says it all, and that word is "Youneverknow."

And you never do.

We had a cat -- we actually had a ton of cats, freeloading indolents who each morning ate their fill at our house, then queued up at Mrs. Miller's next door for second breakfast, like a load of dimwitted feline Hobbits.  These were not pets in any conventional sense; they were Hessians, hired guns meant to keep our cellar rodent-free, but more interested in the cat equivalent of getting drunk in Trenton on Christmas Eve.

Living on the banks of the Erie Barge Canal meant that our across the street neighbors were big Norway rats.  Rats are a little like the people who live in San Francisco's Tenderloin District: dirty, diseased, way smarter than you expect, and constantly on the prowl for food and shiny things.  The rats were North Tonawanda's flower children, one strip of acid paper and a Ken Kesey bus shy of recreating the Summer of Love at the corner of Sweeney Street and Payne Avenue.

We kept cats, expecting them to crack heads like Chicago cops at the '68 Democratic National Convention.  What we got was the US Army in Baden, circa 1976: Fat and slow and ever so slightly stoned.  The cats lolled around, interrupting their routine of eating and sleeping only for the occasional foray into Mr. Sitzlow's shed, where dried herbs, including sweet, sweet catnip, hung from the rafters,  while the rats knocked over garbage cans.  By the time I reached high school, we didn't even bother to give any thought to naming the cats; it was "Grey Cat" and "Mother Cat" and "Dumb Cat".

There is a weird invincibility possessed by the mind-altered and the truly lazy.  The cats had it.  They were indestructible.  One of them decided to spend a cold winter evening sleeping in the warm engine compartment of my father's Ford pickup.  When Dad put key to ignition the next morning, the cat got caught in the fan belt, costing him an eye and earning him the sobriquet "Cyclops" (the vet patched the eyeless socket with a jagged line of sutures; Cyclops looked like he should have been nestled in the crook of the Commandant's arm in some C-level war movie).  Cyclops lasted a long time; if I remember right, he always walked slowly and a teeny bit sideways.

The rats eventually disappeared, thanks mostly to government cleanup efforts and the closure of Pepper's Pier, a burger joint a few doors down from our house.  The cats, our nine-lived welfare cases, remained.

Only one cat had a Work Ethic.  This animal was bizarrely, obsessively attached to my mother, John Hinckley to Mom's Jodie Foster.  Like Mr. Reagan's would-be assassin, the cat thought that violence was the only way to win his Special Lady's devotion.  He was a killing machine: squirrels, mice, birds, even Mrs. Frisbee's friends: nothing small and moving was off limits.  He killed ruthlessly, efficiently, then, eyes shimmering with meek devotion, he'd trot into the kitchen, and deposit the prey at Mom's feet.  Much like Ms. Foster, Bloody Courtship left Mom nonplussed.

This cat disappeared.  I don't know how or when, though I expect that it involved a car trunk and a corn field, something Martin Scorcese would film, if Scorcese was obsessed with cats instead of the Mafia.  Whatever happened to him,  Terminator Cat's final thoughts had to have been, "Why didn't any of that impress her?  I mean, come on!"

That cat is my comrade.

I've been working on this little project for just over a week.  In that time, I have tied family members to one of the most heroic Union regiments of the Civil War (more on that later).  I've discovered staggering evidence that our family was present in Nauvoo at the time of Joseph Smith, and that some of them walked the rooms of the original Nauvoo Temple.  I've had information fall out of nowhere, clarifying and illuminating data I'd previously compiled on Anguishes and Pearces and McMurrays.  It's been a week of crouch and pounce, crouch and pounce, crouch and pounce some more.  And there's a nice little pile of dead things to show for my efforts, which I've presented to that gang of lawyers, educators, medical service professionals and one exquisitely unemployable whack job with whom I share a connection to these particular strands of DNA.

It might as well have been a pile of mauled squirrels. Youneverknow.                              

Oh well.  As the great Jean Shepherd used to say, "Excelsior, you fatheads!"

I never expected the combination of disdain and indifference I've received in some quarters; I feel like Jay Leno in prime time.  On the other hand, I never expected the kindness and encouragement I've received from some of you.  It has been a wonderful gift.

I'm going to keep writing.  At least until Tommy Bananas and Vito show up with Louisville Sluggers,  ready to escort me to that cornfield...

No comments:

Post a Comment