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The cats are more than a little confused this afternoon. The caretaker came home from work early, fixed herself a glass of tea, sat down, and put her feet up. That’s right. Before doling out cat food and water, before asking the cats if they had a good day, before making sure the litter boxes were clean . . .

She sat down.

And put her feet up.

After the initial shock, each cat decided to deal with this unnatural occurrence in his or her own way. Bear chose to occupy a post halfway between the caretaker and the food bowls, making sure the caretaker had a perfect view of her very unhappy kitty face. She lay on the cold, hard wooden floor for almost an hour staring at the caretaker with THAT LOOK, occasionally turning her eyes longingly toward the food bowls, each glance weighed down with an aura of fading strength. She remained silent throughout this tragic scene, but like many silent film stars she was able to dim the world ever so slightly with her pathos.

Buddy, on the other hand, was a bit more direct in expressing his displeasure. Jumping up on the chair arm and placing his face directly in the caretaker’s face, he assumed his best “woman-your-whole-purpose-for-living-is-to-take-care-of-me” attitude. (He is not very good with punctuation at times like these.)  As he sniffed her lips to find out if she had been eating something she hadn’t shared with him, he was startled by a strange noise at the door. It was a combination of large footsteps and low singing tones. That’s right, a song was being delivered to Buddy’s front door, and the thought pleased him immensely. He extracted his nose from the caretaker’s face and jumped down to wait for the song to enter the house. But as he stared at the door, he only heard a metal box clanging, and then the song began to fade away. He remained there staring at the door until all hope of receiving his very first singing telegram was gone.

Crestfallen, Buddy ambled down the hallway to hide under the cot. These two disappointments following so closely upon each other’s heels provided more data than he was equipped to handle on a Friday afternoon. Perhaps after a wee nap the world will regain its former luster. If not, he shall simply have to get another hooman, one who isn’t so self-centered, one who will feed him mounds of fish with gravy and then order him a singing telegram.

That doesn’t seem too much to ask.

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For some reason, this winter has been much more difficult for the cats than last. What makes this situation a curiosity is that the weather this year is milder than last year’s. The cats’ attitudes, however, are not. If it were not for blankets, box dragon, floor dragon, and the fireplace, the Seafoam Cottage would be a tense place indeed. (For readers who need an introduction to the dragons, this post will provide the background.)

Buddy’s main pursuit these days is searching for a new warm spot. This morning, he was spied lying on the floor dragon, at least until the heat cranked up and threatened to bake him. At present, he is crouched on the shelf beside the door, drawing a tiny bit of warmth from the caretaker’s gloves. Mind you, there is one consistently warm place in the house, but he is determined not to become a couch potato. Of course, the fact that he now watches television for long stretches of time probably means that his battle against essential potato-ness is already lost.

Buddy’s previously catalogued mood swings have escalated to the point that the caretaker takes her life into her own hands simply by walking through the house. The only safety to be found is when Buddy is watching the weather forecast or when he has drifted off to sleep. At other times, the Seafoam Cottage is a jungle. Sometimes he’s up on tiptoes, back arched and tail puffed, daring the caretaker to make a move toward him. Sometimes he’s flying through the air, having bounded from the floor to the couch and then on to who-knows-where. Sometimes he’s just loping through the house like a lion in pursuit of a gazelle. Sometimes the gazelle is invisible. And sometimes the role of the gazelle is played by poor Bear, who is always a reluctant actress in these improvisations.

When she is not being chased, Bear is eating or sleeping. A creature of habit, she does not share Buddy’s ambitious search for warmth. There are currently four corners to her napping world: the couch, the Purr Pad nest on the sofa table, the caretaker’s lap, and the bathroom rug in front of the box dragon, which provides Bear’s brightest spot for the entire day. Sometimes she doesn’t nap but merely sits with her eyes closed in front of the box dragon, allowing it to blow its lovely hot breath into her face.

But even though Bear’s usual routine has not been substantially altered by the cold, she is crankier than usual. Her normal irritation at hearing music has heightened to the point that she is as much to be feared as the resident lion. A few days ago, the caretaker broke out into “song” while Bear was enjoying the warm box-dragon breeze. With more energy than she has shown in many months, Bear whipped her head around, opened her mouth as wide as possible, and emitted a fearful cat roar. In the history of horror films, there has never been anything so much to be dreaded.

When Bear was certain that the singing was silenced, she slowly turned her head back to the box dragon. Though her composure was recovered, it took some time for the caretaker’s heart to return to normal rhythm. Whatever it takes, she will try to avoid making Bear angry again. Take her word, gentle reader, that you do not want to encounter Bear’s “Night of the Living Dead” attitude first thing in the morning.

Don't judge me. It's cold.

Don't judge me. It's cold.

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Rock Star

As Buddy sneaked sips of the caretaker’s iced latte while reading about Bear’s recent visit to the vet, he became highly agitated to learn that Bear now has a theme song and a rock star identity, whereas he has only his normal identity as king. If anyone deserves rock star fame, Buddy does, considering that Bear despises music, whereas he adores being sung to and sung about. Furthermore, since the song he belted out on his wild ride to the vet was much more creative than Bear’s one-note wonder (“Oww”), he feels he should be granted the identity of an extremely talented singer-songwriter.

At first he had trouble deciding who was worthy of being his namesake (Sting was under consideration for obvious reasons), but hearing the song “Desperado” settled the matter for him. Given Buddy’s opinionated disposition and his deep appreciation of nature (at least the part of it that he can see from the porch), he is quite happy to have his name permanently linked with the fabulous Mr. Don Henley. Granted, Buddy has no political leanings one way or another, which might seem to disqualify him from any connection with the writer of such songs as “Dirty Laundry” and “Last Resort.” It is true, however, that he shares the sentiments Mr. Henley expresses in such songs as “I Will Not Go Quietly” and “Out of Control.” Besides, the idea of being a drummer pleases Buddy immensely, as it involves making lots of unmelodic noise, as well as providing the beat to which everyone else has to march. (The idea also makes him a little fearful of spontaneous combustion, though he isn’t sure why.)

Desperado
Desperado

As for the song “Desperado,” Buddy prefers not to risk the legal repercussions that might ensue from quoting passages directly, as he does not have a cadre of attorneys to match that of the litigious Mr. Henley. Buddy will say, however, that although he is not familiar with the concept of riding fences, he does walk along the wooden rail inside the screamed-in porch, as illustrated in the photo at left. “Desperado” talks about queens, and as a king, he is always interested in royalty. In addition, the song speaks of a hunger that is intense enough to drive the desperate one home, and driving hunger is certainly a concept that Buddy understands. Also, the talk of prison versus freedom resonates deeply with the one who is often kept incarcerated in the Seafoam Cottage when he would prefer to roam the porch. Finally, although roaming is important to his scientific ventures, he finds great comfort in sitting on the couch and letting the caretaker scratch him behind the ears, which he accepts as evidence of love. Still, he would like the song much better if the line were amended to read as follows: “You’d better let somebody *feed* you,” as he feels that kind of sentiment would much better match the earlier bit in the song about fine things being laid on a table. (Buddy is quite surprised that a genius such as Mr. Henley missed this connection, but he understands the song was written in the singer’s youth, before he became perfect.)

This decision made, Buddy’s only remaining choice is the order that the new moniker should take in relationship to his previous titles. He is seriously thinking of using the “Don” part without the “Henley” and giving it first billing so that it will do the dual duty of making him sound like a mob boss, but he’s concerned that his royal title will be lost in the shuffle. Beyond that, he recognizes that the leadership style of a king and that of a mafia don are generally incompatible, and he’s not quite sure which of the two he prefers to promote. Perhaps someone could get him another latte to sip while he ponders the matter.

———

Caretaker’s Note: Of course it would be irresponsible of me to allow Buddy to drink latte. That does not prevent him from rubbing his lips on the straw whenever he gets a chance. He is, after all, a consummate pretender. And thief.

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Songs in the Night

It is amazing how very much the sound of a frightened cat running across a wood floor is quite like the rumbling of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe filled with the spoils of commerce. It is also amazing how quickly a human can be raised from a deep, deep sleep by the combined sounds of a cat freight train and blaring rock music.  If you don’t have time to read any further, at least know that the combination of a curious cat and a clock radio has undesirable consequences, especially at 3:25 am.

Bear is content to spend her nights in peaceful sleep. Buddy has not grasped the joy that is to be found in peace, either by day or by night. The caretaker is not sure how much time he spends roaming the house while she sleeps, only that she is awakened at least three times a week to some grand adventure or another. Early this morning, the adventure involved the clock radio in what is technically the guest bedroom. Due to its pleasant southerly view (the Cat TV of a previous post), Buddy descended upon the room the first day he was introduced into the household and declared himself a permanent guest. The only thing he does not require is a chocolate under the pillow.

Confusion ensued at 3:25, when the gravelly sounds of a poorly tuned 80’s rock station began to emanate from “somewhere in the house” and a wild-eyed cat rumbled into the caretaker’s room. Upon being awakened suddenly, the caretaker is always very slow to process information; thoughts bubble up in single words, usually in single syllables. At 3:25 this morning, her thoughts ran something like this:

*Noise*

*Dark*

*Cat*

*Music?* (Oh, good, we’re up to two syllables now.)

*Alarm?*

At this point, all thoughts were drowned by a wave of confusion. With Buddy dancing around as though the floor was on fire and Bear refusing to move so that the caretaker could get out of bed, the band played on. Most times, the caretaker takes great delight in a good rock song. This was not one of those times. Knowing that the first order of business was to silence the alarm, the caretaker shoved Bear aside, stumbled toward the noise, and finally found the clock. Buddy had apparently been executing one of his ninja moves and knocked it off the night stand. It was upside down, “rocking on” in the dark. After another minute to locate the switch, the caretaker had stopped the music and returned the clock to its former dignity. However, it took another 15 minutes to return Buddy to any semblance of dignity.  It was at least another hour before he could muster the courage to return to his room.

So the moral of the story can be summarized in a simple equation:

Curious Cat + Clock radio = Chaos

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

The regular ringing of the alarm (more like a repeating beep, actually) is only one of the annoying things about the caretaker, and it isn’t her least endearing activity by far. Even the irritation of being suddenly jolted out of a lovely cat nap at 5:30 a.m. can’t compare with the aggravation of having the caretaker singing to you, at you, about you, or anywhere near you. Although Buddy loves a good lullaby from time to time, the cats don’t generally care for music unless they are making it, and they certainly don’t like being the subject of silly songs. It is a humiliation almost too painful to bear. But the caretaker seems to consider her entire life to be a low-budget off-off-Broadway musical, so she is constantly making the cats suffer through her faux show tunes. Like their on-stage counterparts, these songs usually weave mundane events into mindless melodic mush. You are directed to Exhibit A below, with which Buddy and Bear were ambushed when they wandered in the bathroom to oversee the caretaker brushing her teeth with their whisker styler.

“Two green eyes in my bathtub.
Two green eyes on my bath rug.
What would I do? What would I do?
Without you . . . .  two?”

“Mrooow?”

Since placing the caretaker into servitude, the cats have been subjected to impromptu songs about cats on the couch, cats on the floor, one cat on the table and one near the door, cats eating snacks, cats wearing slacks . . . well, you get the picture. The embarrassment of having one’s every action set to Rodgers and Frankenstein tunes is exceeded only by the annoyance of having them sung at the top of the caretaker’s lungs. Let’s be brutally honest here: if the caretaker were on Broadway (where the cats would send her if they had a credit card and opposable thumbs), she wouldn’t need a microphone. The woman sings so loudly that ticket holders in the farthest corner of the theatre would run screaming from the building, clutching their bleeding ears.

So ask not for whom the bell tolls. Seriously, please don’t ask. She’ll only turn it into a song. If she weren’t so useful, the very next bell you heard would be tolling for her. The cats could make it happen without drawing any suspicion whatsoever. She’s clumsy, and she often trips over her own feet. There are other things she could trip over. But as long as the cats continue to be fed and scratched regularly, they will grudgingly endure the faux tunes, and if it the noise gets too loud or lasts too long, they will stalk out of the room in search of peace and quiet.

If the cats had opposable thumbs, they would slam the door meaningfully behind them. But then, if they had opposable thumbs, they could make their own dinner and wouldn’t need her. Life can be so cruel sometimes.

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About the blog name

If you wandered into this strange little world by accident, you probably began by criticizing the name. The cats are accustomed to that, and for once, they don’t blame you. They’re quite sure you’re saying to yourself, “It would have been so much better to call it ‘Conversations with Crazy Cats’ because that’s alliterative and poetic and rolls trippingly off the tongue.” And the cats would agree with you, at least about the sound of the name. The sense, however, is much better served without the word “crazy” for two reasons.

First, the term “crazy cats” has connotations of jazz. The cats do not approve of jazz, and they certainly don’t want anyone mistaking them for sunglasses-sporting, chain-smoking, saxophone-wielding musicians who wear musty black turtlenecks and torn blue jeans. Cats are very particular about their image, as you would know if you had ever observed their methodical grooming. Of course, that activity is usually followed by a series of revolting retches to bring up a nasty hairball, but such is the price of beauty.

Second, the word “crazy” is informal and pejorative, and cats do not wish to be addressed either informally or pejoratively. Furthermore, crazy is a way of life in the South, where the cats were born, and would therefore not distinguish them from any of their neighbors and certainly not from the local politicians or radio personalities. “Insane,” however, is a clinical diagnosis that can provide the basis for reduced sentencing in criminal cases. Considering their behavior, the cats may need such a remedy, but that, of course, is the only the caretaker’s opinion, as the cats are like politicians and will never admit to any wrongdoing. Cats are all about blameshifting and plausible deniability. And salmon.

So despite your obvious disapproval, “Conversations with Insane Cats” will muddle through, recording the day-to-day musings of two of the craziest most insane house cats you could ever want to meet, as well as the occasional babblings of their secretary and caretaker whom the cats suspect is actually the one who is not quite right in the head.

Welcome to the jungle.

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