The Secret Reign Of Cats

“I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.” – Jules Verne

For a man who shook poetry from the trees and made profit with the value of extraordinary journeys, it’s obvious that old Jules grasped the divinity of felinity when he uttered those words. He understood that cats possess mystical abilities which transcend our mundane existence. The fact that they haven’t let us in on their slinky secrets by now is proof that when humankind is done crunching this cosmic taco, cats are going to own the the title on some primo real estate.

My history with cats didn’t get started until I was a young adult, in keeping with my scattershot family tradition of going pet-less for great stretches of time. I was fourteen when we adopted our first dog: Penny was a Vizsla who was delightfully unapologetic about her disdain for strangers. It was no wonder I took to this wondrous hybrid, seeing as how she possessed the soul of a cat who happened to play a mean game of frisbee for good measure.

The next family additions came when I was eighteen. Ralph and Norton were a couple of hooligans my mother and sister found. The former was scared of his own shadow and the latter, well, he was that shadow. These miscreants were a rebellion unto themselves with their abhorrent lack of manners when it came to dining, as well as their disdain for upturned noses. They were cats in name only . . . which counts for much. Lady Chestnut was a tortoiseshell beauty who went from rags to royalty, and she kept the boys in line.

I became a cat daddy by proxy when I was in my late twenties and married. I’d rented a refurbished barn to sell antiques out of and that’s when I met Sheba. Imagine Uma Thurman from Kill Bill in a jet black fur suit. She was a feral cat who had little use for life on the inside. I built her a little abode out back so she could keep me company when she felt like it. She was a huntress of biblical proportions and the first time she jumped up into my lap, I knew I’d achieved street cred in perpetuity.

Joe was next. He was yet another feral black cat who was a CIA agent in a past life. I got his name from the Jimi Hendrix song. Joe was a fascinating specimen in that he possessed the most extraordinarily placid demeanor until something fucked with his Zen, after which he went all Bruce Lee. His human inner circle consisted of me and my daughter. As with Sheba, we lost him to the streets.

Storm was our first inside cat. She was a gray and white longhair whose equanimous nature belied the struggles in her brain. As with Sheba and Joe, she was the product of an Amish ‘upbringing’, and that is a dubious trait to be toting between your tail. We brought Storm and Sweeps inside, but her brother- the coolest black cat in the history of ever- died during his orchidectomy. Storm suffered from a cognitive decline at a young age. She was our Crazy Queen, the lone heiress to the throne in what would become a bittersweet reign.

I hadn’t stopped to consider the royal lineage of cats I had lived under until the reign of Mister Jack Speaker. He became the coolest black cat in the second book of the history of ever. He was a polarizing figure, fiercely loyal to his round table of peeps and unforgivingly savage to everyone else. As a King, he was imposing and uncompromising. It was purr meeting fection, damn straight.

After Mister Speaker’s passing in 2020, I knew the next cat to hold the throne would have an extraordinarily large set of pawprints to fill. That’s why I adopted two.

Jack- named after his predecessor- is a marmalade tabby who happens to be one of the buffest cats I’ve ever known. If he was a professional athlete, he would be getting drug tested on the regular. He was a dog in another life because he greets me when I come home, sleeps at the foot of my bed every night and is always there to wish me a good morning.

Wednesday- a tortoiseshell with white patches that pop- possesses a Picasso-like half mustache that speaks to you in languages that haven’t even been borne yet. She observes all the etiquette of a proper young lady and as with Lady Chestnut, keeps her reckless brother in check. She’s a cat in the most magical sense of the word and so her gaze is the only currency she is ever going to need.

The Empire is strong.





Of Kings and Queens and Kitchen Sinks

History of cats in Egypt

I like the idea of a spirit world.

Ancient Egyptians took the shit very seriously because to their way of thinking, a person’s life wasn’t finished when their expiration date came calling. They believed that the newly departed had an appointment with Osiris- the god of the deceased- and his 42 judges in a place called The Hall of Truth. If it was judged that the person on trial had lived a good life, they were permitted to enter Club Afterlife. Conversely, if the person was judged to have been a dick, they were tossed into the abyss and devoured by a monster. Not for nothing, but the Hall of Truth sounds way more fair minded than our Supreme Court. But that’s another thought for another post.

Anyways, the Egyptians believed that if you were greenlighted for the penthouse, it was all Gucci from there. Residents whose slippers were woven from clouds didn’t have to sweat any return trips to earth. They were gifted their favorite places and things for the rest of eternity without ever having to load up the car and fill the tank. There was however . . a however. Because let’s face it, there’s always a however. If an individual was called into the existential equivalent of jury duty, it meant their business on earth wasn’t quite finished or their peeps had dissed them in some way.

My daughter is convinced that we have a ghost and his name is Mr. Speaker. It makes sense, seeing as how the former furry ruler of House Lancaster loved the view from his perch and made sure that any visitors knew they had best leave their swords at the gate upon entering. It was his kingdom, they were just visiting. It would be sooooo Mr. Speaker to hold it against us for having replaced his precious crown with not one, but two members of royalty. And in the same calendar year to boot.

I elected Jack the 2nd and Wednesday the Only to the throne in the summer of 2020, whilst we were still writing songs about our dearly departed King Speaker. Truth is, I was in a very dark place after having lost Speaker months earlier and so when my sister sent me a video of a couple kittens she was fostering, I replied with “Sold!” And the rest has become a splendid history of two incredibly majestic rulers whose reign is akin to Carly Simon and James Taylor spilling musical gold onto a piece of vinyl.

Evidently, Mr. Speaker disagrees with this assessment.

“I think Speaker is inhabiting the kitchen,” My daughter informed me.

“What makes you say that?”

“You ever notice how Jack and Wednesday accompany each other into the kitchen? Or if it’s just one of them going in, they’ll usually wait for us?”

“You think Speaker’s haunting their asses?” I laughed.

“It’s something he would do,” She replied.

I conducted a thorough investigation of the area, making sure to cancel out insects, rodents and phroggers before reaching my conclusion that Mr. Speaker is in fact, haunting our kitchen.

Now here’s the thing. I could hold a séance in which I confess to the guy that he was such a hard act to follow, I had to double down! And not for nothing, but I honored his memory by naming one of them Jack (Since his full name was Mr. Jack Speaker)  He was a trusted confidante and loyal friend to my daughter. He was an expert wingman for yours truly. And as far as gangster chronicles go, the dude was legendary.

Eh . . . what’s the use? I know he would turn his nose up at such a gesture even if it happens to be completely true. He wouldn’t cease and desist even if I asked him nicely. What Mr. Speaker wants, he always gets. Even now. And it’s not as if the current regime is cutting back on food and water as a result. They’re just a tad bit more discretionary as to how they budget their time in the kitchen. And I think I need to follow their example if I’m being completely honest.

Besides . . .as far as I’m concerned, the spirit world just got a whole lot cooler.

The shape of angels

He immersed himself in small fascinations because they possessed the quality of cosmic slingshots; they traversed the narrow passages of ordinary days with mighty catapults whose earnest plead wed dreams to the hopeless places.

He learned to understand life beyond his years out of necessity. And as such he learned that to entertain lost causes was to profit on the flaws of humanity and in so doing, to live inside truths whose divinity provided the most grand and boundless of sanctuaries. Which is why he conspired to steal away on certain afternoons to Maribel’s house, running as quickly as his first grade legs could carry him. Maribel was a cross-grained old woman who lived across the street, catercorner to his family’s rancher.

The neighborhood kids had stitched together vicious rumors about Maribel, out of ignorance and spite. The portrait they painted was of a crazy cat lady who stole little kids and practiced Santeria. She was sentenced to this unfortunate reputation for having chased them off her property when they tried stealing mangoes or her morning paper.

He had avoided such an adversarial relationship when he brought her a kitten he’d found rummaging in some hedges one day. It’s how we won her over in quicksilver fashion. After which she recruited him to help her with chores whenever he borrowed enough time with which to do so.

Inside the give or take of his free time, he would help Maribel with basic tasks such as watering her plants, taking out the garbage, cleaning up or feeding her daily herd of assorted stray cats from the neighborhood. He was amazed at how she kept them all straight; from names she’d coined for them to their respective dinner preferences to the tiniest roam of a habit attached to their street smart tails. And then she shared with him the reason for such a studious dedication to her extended family.

“If you take these creatures seriously, God listens.”

As time wore him down in all the ways of a too mean world, he came to love that simple piece of Zen. The years added a patina to his memories, and the lessons learned gained the weight of purpose and inviolable truths. To abide by the tenets was to purchase a hard earned peace of mind. And so it was that the old woman in shuffling slippers and a frayed pink house coat with the perpetual ash of a Benson and Hedges hanging from her lips taught him lessons without trying.

He crouched down onto the grass and criss-crossed his legs and let his newest friend King fall into his arms. Here was a first rate mutt who didn’t give a fig for the flat earth quality of purebreds. The bric-a-brac DNA that coursed through his veins told better stories, after all. With mastiff jowls that swung like a pendulum to his eager terrier clench to the clumsy pit bull puppy wanting to be all grown up . . King was a brilliant harmony of imperfection.

He wrapped his arms around King and then he looked into his eyes and he could see that house across the street, catercorner from his family’s rancher in Miami. And from that other lifetime ago, the moments stretched into a million different truths and he took each and every one of them seriously.

God was listening.