From over three years ago...Creem wouldn't run this for some reason or another. Reads a bit full of myself now as I look back on it, but the story is 100% true.
The Dirtbombs had played a benefit show with the Von Bondies for our friends the Mistreaters whose van, equipment, and lives had been swallowed by flames outside of Houston. I spent the night and most of the next day at my girlfriend’s, hounded by the cats her roommate was hoodwinked into taking. Leon Pickles and Porky Goldstein. Good names, evil cats. They claw at her bedroom door at terrible hours, try to snake food from your plate, and jump on records as they spin on the turntable.
As I arrive home, still un-showered, my mom unloads a bevy of tasks “Mow the lawn, put away the dishes, and…oh yeah I saw a little cat on the back porch, can you take care of that?” I, sizing up the easiest task, say, “I can do the dishes and take care of the cat, but I’m not mowing the lawn.”
A few minutes later I call the Michigan Humane Society. A baritone-throated man answers the phone, asks if the cat is injured, I say no, and tells me they don’t do nighttime (7:20 pm) pick-ups unless it’s an emergency. He said to call in the morning and that they would be able to pick it up then.
I managed to scare the cat out from under the couch on the back porch onto a stoop of a bookshelf. I wanted to offer the kitten some warm milk, but all I could scrounge up was some water. As I approached the bookshelf, the cat hissed at me. I needn’t be warned twice, so I kept my distance.
So I sit down, wasting time on the computer. I’d been feeling uninspired lately, useless, redundant. Like I wanted to stab my own eyeballs just to see what would happen. I put on side two of Spaceman 3’s “Sound of Confusion”. Their cover of the Stooges’ “Little Doll” is one of the most amazing and frightening things I can listen to. Feeling lost, I put on side two of the Velvet’s “White Light/White Heat”. I remember reading Bangs where he said most copies of “WL/WH” have a pristine, un-played side two, because no one could ever stomach all 17 minutes of “Sister Ray”. It seemed to be the only thing I could stomach at the time. Duck and Sally Ann, searching for mainlines, sucking on ding-dongs, it all seemed to make some kind of sense to me.
I sat with the empty Microsoft Word cursor blinking in front of me. I tried to eek out feeling, emotion, anything. I, for the life of me, could not muster one inspired word. So much for the journalism degree.
I followed the disappointment up with the un-edited version of the Rapture’s “House of Jealous Lovers” twelve-inch. It’s all in the cowbell. Next was a LP I had no information on called “Gunsight” by the band Gun. Sounded like Blue Cheer and Cream finger-picking some Spanish guitar. And it was released on Epic?
I ended the night with side 3 of the Blast First re-issue of Suicide’s debut album, the live at CBGB’s side. The songs were vacuous and so was I. This night I’d be an LP-only man, reveling in the fact that I could play them louder, that they crackled a little bit, that when you held them, it felt like you were holding a tresure. I was esoteric, obscure, and experimental. The whole time I’m listening to these records, the little kitten was annoyingly and obnoxiously purring, meowing, cawing. It was nerve racking. “It’ll all be taken care of in the morning,” I told myself.
I awoke at 9:15 this morning and called the number for the Michigan Humane Society that I so neatly scribbled down the night before. This time, a young woman answered the phone, again asked if the cat was injured, and then gave me another number to call. I dialed and received Detroit Animal Control, I told the woman my kitty situation and she connected me to the switchboard operator. I said “I’ve got a cat on my back porch.” and the grumpy man on the other side of the receiver said, “Well, if it’s not in a cage, we can’t pick it up.” Ok. “Lemme get this straight,” I braved, “this is animal control, but you can’t get a cat unless it’s in a cage?” He replied, as if he says it a thousand times a day “Sir, the city of Detroit doesn’t have any laws on stray cats,” implying that if this were a dog, he’d be over in two shakes of a cat’s tail.
So I re-call the Humane Society and plead as to why they can’t capture the cat. They plea short-staffed, non-injured cat, and again ask if I can bring the cat in. If I could bring it in, I wouldn’t be calling in the first place. I once again told them I could not bring in the cat. The lady on the other line said, “Hold on one sec, I’ll see what we can do.”
As I sat there on hold, I assessed the situation. Here was this tiny creature, confined to a 10’x 10’ space…I hung up the phone and decided to take on the challenge.
Armed with a box and lid, I creeped back onto the back porch. I had to scare the kitty out from under the couch again, it once again sneaking into the bookshelf. I had it cornered. I put the box flush up against the shelf, so there was no way out for the cat. It wouldn’t move. In an attempt to get a reaction, I shook the bowl of water from the night before, obviously getting the kitty wet. I got another hiss.
I took a break, sat on the computer for five minutes, then went back to the porch. As I peered at the bookshelf, there was no sign of the rascal. Fuck…it’d snuck out. As I moved the box, it rumbled and the rapscallion jumped out as I screamed. I want to say I screamed like a little girl, but even little girls aren’t scared of kittens.
So back under the couch, I managed to lift if from the side, trying to get the cat to jump out. Shake, shake, shake, shake, and shake leads to no kitten. I prop the edge of the couch on top of a chair, leaving it elevated at a 45-degree angle.
While still trying to decide an attack strategy, the little devil scooted out, knocked an extra glass panel not installed, and set off a chain reaction of events that knocked over a table and broke an already-annoying wind chime.
This was easily becoming more than I had bargained for. I re-positioned the disrupted objects and re-thought my strategy. It’d been too much, so I took a much-needed break.
As I sat in the midst of the break, and bigger and more cacophonous crash occurred. The cat had scuttled around again, this time knocking down the extra glass panel. It shattered into thousands of shiney slivers. What an asshole.
I’d quickly eliminated any isolated hiding spot the cat had and eventually cornered it. Not being too sure of myself, I slowly scooted it into the box using the lid, and nervously popped the top and sat the box outside as I searched for some tape to secure it.
I’d figured that the most of the process was over now. I hopped in my car and searched for an appropriate CD that’d put the cat at ease, cause I’m thinking, “this animal has never been in a car before, it has no idea what’s going on.”
I decide on Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks’ “Pig Lib”. This is such an amazing album that I can’t seem to remove from my car stereo. As the opening inklings of “Water and a Seat” came on, I imagined in my head the cat grooving around inside the box, totally digging Malk’s frenetic guitar skillz. I later realized the cat had been hiding under a seat, and been bothered by water. I skipped track two, the only dud on the album, and went straight to “(Do Not Feed The) Oyster”, the hit single that all the kids across the country SHOULD be singing on the beach, instead of whatever drivel J.Lo has out this week.
In the midst of “Oyster” I realized I was missing some amazing synchronicity and put on Cat Power’s “You Are Free”. What a sweet, somber, and chilling album. As the matter-of-fact piano danced in on the opening track “I Don’t Blame You” my eyes filled up. This was the cat speaking to me. It didn’t blame me, and as Chan Marshall put it “(I) Didn’t want to play.” All that in the back porch, it was a game to the kitten, but I couldn’t see the fun in it. As I approached the Humane Society , “Free” clicked on. It was hitting me harder. Was my taking this animal to the Humane Society, and possible impending death, freedom? Or was it the possibility of finding a family, of securing a secure lifestyle itself freedom? There was an empty lot next to the building with an obvious stray dog roaming around. What kind of operation was this where they couldn’t even catch (or contain) animals on their very block?
I went in, put the box on the counter, and almost felt like running out right then. I told Ahmed behind the counter that I’d caught the cat on my back porch, told him it was grey and white, cupped an invisible size in my hands gauging its size, and handed over my driver’s license for some unknown reason. A mom with too many kids walked out while her offspring were audibly dreaming of wanting to adopt every kitten in there. God damn if I didn’t almost start crying right there. Let alone the smell of an animal shelter, it smells desperate, it smells dirty, it smells like death.
What was I doing? I hadn’t even asked around the neighborhood to see if anyone was missing a cat. Ahmed gave me a printout, and I sheepishly asked if I could recommend a name for the cat. “Sure,” he said, “it makes it a lot easier on us actually.”
He handed me the forms and I boldly printed “C-H-A-N” on the blank provided. He unassumingly said “CH-AN” to sound like a Chinese surname, but I held my self from correcting him and saying “It’s pronounced ‘Shawn’”.
As I walked back to the parking lot, a huge sign posted on the building spoke to me. It read:
“Please do not give your animal to anyone who approaches you other than a Humane Society employee. The person who wants your pet may have
undisclosed motives such as research or religious practices or may not provide the best possible home for your companion animal.”
What kind of sick world is this where some creeps will hang out in a parking lot trying to steal animals from their loving owners for research? Or religious sacrifice? Who were these sickos? How often has this happened? Enough to warrant a sign?
Back in the car, “Good Woman” came on. Eddie Vedder’s haunting vocals lingered in the background as Marshall near whispered “I can’t see you no more” I remembered being perched on my knees, staring into the kittens eyes, wondering what it was thinking, wondering what it had experienced.
I didn’t want to worry if I’d done the right thing or not. I got back home and told my mom that I’d taken the cat to the Humane Society. “WHY’D YOU DO THAT?” she pled, with nigh-tears in her eyes. “WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL THE SHOPINSKI’S? (our neighbors) THEY’RE CAT PEOPLE.” My mom pointed out another, much larger cat and said “She’s looking for her baby.”
I felt helpless. I couldn’t go back and get the kitten (part of the agreement that Ahmed had me sign), the mother cat seemed to be a stray anyways, and I had already been through enough and it was only noon. I had planned to sleep in. I had planned to go to the bank. I had planned on getting lunch.
But I’d finally found my inspiration to write.