A week in New York. I’d write something, but damn it, I’m on holiday.
It’s been a busy week, so I haven’t had the time to post as much as I would have liked.
But then what do you care? That’s what I told Jacquie the other night when I showed her the blog statistics. Our readership was at an all-time low. I didn’t know you could get a number below zero visits. Obviously, we’d sprung a leak somewhere along the way. There were tough decisions to be made.
“Jacquie,” I said, “We’ve had a good long run. We’ve had a few laughs, a few tears, and a few dozen whip-its. But maybe it’s time we tossed in the towel. Maybe these stats are a sign to shut the lights off on this ‘Basement’ we call ‘Life.'”
“You could shut down the blog,” Jacquie said. “But who would notice?”
“Exactly. So what do I do?”
“I have just the thing that will boost readership.”
“What is it?”
“Shhh, come here.”
Jacquie opened her arms and gave me a hug but before I knew it, she managed to cover my nose and mouth with a damp handkerchief, and by the count of 10, I was unconscious. My wife had chloroformed me, just like on our wedding day.
I don’t know how much time passed, but when I woke up, I found us standing inside a long, brightly lit corridor with 25 cages built into the walls on either side, and a couple of strange people with ID badges, smiling at me.
“Feel free to ask us any questions,” one of them said.
“Who are you horrible people?” I said.
“It’s the Auckland SPCA,” Jacquie said. “We’re going to adopt a cat.”
The volunteers showed us several models to choose from. We learned that Auckland had just gotten through one of the biggest “kitten seasons” on record, but there didn’t seem to be many in the cages so I assumed that most of them had already been culled by licensed hunters or adopted, whichever applied to “kitten season.” We didn’t mind so much, anyway, since Jacquie and I were accustomed to adopting old cats. Norman was four or five when we took him in, and Puffy was probably 14 or 15, and Graeme, well, we’re not so sure because, as it turned out, Graeme had probably been dead for several years before we rescued her.
But the older ones at the SPCA gave us the creeps, to say nothing of the cats they were showing us. We were none too impressed.
Until we met this young buck.
A volunteer told us that Chester was the last of his litter to be adopted, because he was “naturally shy.” But that probably had nothing whatsoever to do with people constantly lurching at him with their big grubby hands. From my perspective, the nine-week-old seemed more than eager to come home with us and destroy our furniture.
So the volunteer took Chester out of his cage and whispered something into the poor guy’s ear. “I speak cat language because I’m an honorary non-feline member of the Cat Council*,” the volunteer informed us. “I want you two to know, we all think you’re doing such a great thing.” (“We” referring to said Cat Council, presumably).
Jacquie and I made for the exit as quickly as we could, but not in time to escape another volunteer who tricked us into buying thousands of dollars worth of unnecessary junk, like a scratching post, catnip toys and food. Then as we were carrying all this crap out to the car, I looked into the carrier.
“Hey, this carrier is empty,” I said.
“Oh, ha-ha, I must have unknowingly exchanged your carrier with an empty one while you weren’t looking, by mistake,” the volunteer said. “How did that happen?”
Chester has been home with us now for three days, and I have to say he’s behaved like a perfectly normal kitten, playing with his catnip toys, smashing precariously stored plates and glasses, and scratching my corneas out with an X-acto knife. And the blog? Did Jumping the Shark by shamelessly and lazily exploiting the biological hardwiring of humans to take interest in all things small, doe-eyed and vulnerable, did that help bring our stats up?
Well, it’s too early to know. For now, let’s just say that if you don’t get everyone you know to read this blog right now, the kitten just might have an “accident,” if you know what I mean.
*This is a reference to a very old inside-joke in my family. With apologies to my sister, the lawyer, and her gracious decision to never pursue litigation against me, Jacquie or Basement Life and its subsidiaries, licensees, franchisees or partners, in perpetuity throughout the known universe.
Jacquie picked out Norman (left) from the cat rescuers at the Kips Bay Petco on 22nd Street and Second Avenue in New York. It was a cool, sunny October afternoon in 2006 and we hadn’t gotten over the untimely death of the other cat we’d adopted together, whom we euthanized that June after the old man contracted a rare venereal disease during one of his excursions to Thailand. I remember that we were still wearing our black veils and speaking in somber, monotonous tones, droning on and on about our existential anxieties like some boring Eugene O’Neill drama. We’d been in this state for months, swooning over the loss of our poor, deaf, stinky-assed cat, Puffy.
That’s when Jacquie saw Norman. She asked if she could take him out of the cage. The cat rescue volunteers, unaccustomed to human interaction, ran away from us, hiding and napping in some of the empty shelves in the back, alternately hissing at and grooming one another. Their ways were not our ways. But through sheer patience, we succeeded in getting Norman out of his cage for a closer look.
It was love at first sight. Oh, Norman. You came and you gave without taking. You kissed me and stopped me from shaving. And I need you today, oh Norman. I knew Jacquie had her heart set on this guy, but I didn’t really want another cat. Not after what happened to Puffy. So we decided to take a walk to clear our heads. But when we returned, Norman was still there, and from that day on, he crawled into our hearts like a big, fluffy parasitic nematode.
And the three of us lived happily together for three years. More or less.
But now all we have left are pictures, and memories and a few extra cans of Natural Balance. Sure, we wanted to take Norman with us to Auckland. We’d planned on it. We started the process in February, 2009, getting Norman tested for rabies, updating his vaccinations. New Zealand is quite restrictive concerning pets, with reason. They’re especially wary of rabies and so they require a series of tests leading up to the very day of departure. The cost to do this by ourselves would be at least $2,000, if not more. There was a transcontinental flight to arrange, a week-long stay in Los Angeles for the final battery of tests and inspections and a month long quarantine in Auckland. Soon we realized that if we made even the slightest error in the paperwork or the procedure, we could end up spending thousands of dollars more to correct it.
We called a full-service company, and their rates began at $5,000. We just couldn’t justify that kind of expense for a cat when we had other priorities that needed addressing, such as my leather bag fetish, and Jacquie’s ever-growing collection of Smurf tchotchkes.
So we had to find a home for Norman. But that’s a story for another day. Excuse me while I go cry.