The Cats Totally Run the Show Around Here

There’s no arguing with a cat.

Hand to heaven, I can’t say no to a furry face. That’s how my wife and I ended up with four cats. Four of the most spoiled cats you’ll ever meet, too. Every time I open the fridge Elvira (our all-too-aptly-named black cat) comes running into the kitchen, meowing at the top of her lungs. She’s begging — no, scratch that — demanding that I give her some milk. Now.

And I have to, or else she will literally crawl into the refrigerator looking for it herself.

Now she has our youngest cat, Phantom, in on the act too. At first they’d fight over the bowl, so I had to give them each their own. Now they’ve started collaborating. Elvira meows/yells at me while Phantom rubs against my leg and purrs. It’s a good cat/bad cat routine that works every time. Since they’ve teamed up, they also share the spoils. Both heads plunge into the bowl simultaneously to enjoy the not-so-hard-won booty. And occasionally Phantom lifts his face from the milk and gives me this look that’s all like “I totally own you, man.”

Phantom is one of those cats that gets this look on his face like he knows something you don’t and there’s no way he’s ever going to tell you, because honestly, it’s just better that you live on in your blissful ignorance. It’s like a combination of wisdom and pity. It’s really disconcerting.

But he’s the sweetest cat in the world. He’s so adoring, in fact, that he often wakes me in the middle of the night to express his love in the form of head butting me in the face.

Character Sketch

Once you get to know me you realize there just isn’t a lot there. It’s not that I’m shallow — it’s just that I’m a three trick pony. Hang around me for any length of time and you’ll get the idea. You’ll start to notice that you heard me tell this joke before, were struck by that witty comment sometime last month, saw the same nervous tick last week when I got upset about the state of baseball in America. And that’s when it hits you. I’m boring. Nice, but really boring. Oh, I don’t blame you. You think it’s bad for you, imagine being me. I’ve been living with myself for nearly thirty years now. It’s no walk in the park.

The strangest thing is, how you’ll come to be friends with me in the first place. You’ll think I am so clever and interesting. Because I can carry on a passable dinner conversation about Lear.

That’s amazing, you think. What a grasp of intricate conceptual twistings and turnings he has. Which is, of course, true. Because I’m not a phony. So we talk for a while and you find out I like jazz. And know how to tell my Bird from my Coltrane. Wow, what a connection; you’re starting to think this could turn into something; but, being the natural skeptic that you are, turn the conversation to a subject about which you are positive I’ll have nothing to say.

“As a matter of fact, I think that, sociologically speaking, the Samoan peoples are far more advanced than the ancient Polynesians,” I retort, as your jaw drops into your soup bowl.

So we exchange cards that night and I call you up for coffee in a few days. It’s subtle, but you feel slightly uncomfortable when you walk into the restaurant and see me sitting at the table wearing an almost exact replica of the outfit I wore to the dinner where we met. You decide to give me the benefit of the doubt and not assume that I only own clothes that are disturbingly similar.  Which I do.

The conversation goes way better than you had even imagined it would. Not only do I know jazz and Lear, but I can hold forth for a decent amount of time about the plight of Tibet and the benefits of having a Zen garden.

This will continue for about four weeks. Then the other shoe will drop. We’ll be at a party together and it will happen. You’ll introduce me to your friend the English professor (the local university chap who just finished a book on Lear). And I’ll start in. It’s beautiful, charming, well researched, perfectly rehearsed and exactly what I said on the night we first met. That’s when it will all come into focus and you’ll see exactly why you’ve been slightly irritated all the time for the past week and a half.  I’m a three trick pony.

An open letter

Dear National Retail Chain:

I couldn’t help but notice, during a recent visit to your place of business, that you have an exciting array of new designs just in time for the winter festival season. While I am excited about purchasing many of your items both for myself and as gifts for friends and family, I find that I am somewhat confused by the choices of color offered.

Perhaps I am overly simple. Maybe I am even a bit provincial in my affinity for plain speech; but I can’t help but think that the public would be better served by being offered choices like “red” or “brown” instead of “Ravishing Rouge” or “Cafe Mocha Extra.” A turn of phrase is all well and good, but, for the love of God, I don’t know what to buy! I know my significant other loves blue. The question is: will she also love “Temptation’s Breath”? I mean, it looks blue, but how do I know for sure? I feel especially bad for the colorblind shopper, who relies on familiar color nomenclature to keep herself coordinated.

So, National Retail Chain, if the colors we already have are no longer trendy enough, please, please, print a comparison chart for the rest of us. I couldn’t live with myself if I went out of the house wearing “Nearly Neon” socks with my new “Cordovan Crush” shoes.