Monday, November 12, 2007

Watch the Kitty!

A couple of weeks ago, I turned 53. Some of you are, no doubt, bored and weary with this news. (“What is he? Some kind of show-off, just ‘cause he’s lived longer than most of us and is younger than the rest of us? What’s he want? A medal, Mr. I’m-53-and-You’re-Not?”)

Actually, the point is my wife Elizabeth (age forbidden to be divulged; “Oh? And who does she think she is? Some kinda—“
Oh, shut up!)

Elizabeth gave me a very cool birthday present: a digital Canon Powershot S5IS, a real camera, with billions of challenging buttons, adjustments and even the ability to shoot movies; a camera that, on one level, is easy to use in the point-and-shoot-way, but also gives me the potential to strike professional fear and envy in the whirring, clicking ghosts of Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell . . . should I ever learn how to properly use it.

“Ahhhh!” you sigh. “You must be experiencing untrammeled joy as you fly about the lovely California countryside snapping beautiful portraits of the gorgeous flora and fauna, the rainbow swirls emanating from those oh-so-pretty oil slicks! We bate our breaths for you to post your work on your elegant posting-site for us to see and sing praise!”

Uh , well, what I’ve actually been doing is taking photos of the Cat. That and nothing but.

It started out so innocently. I thought I was engaged in rational thought. The Cat, I figured, would be the perfect subject for a budding photographer: a pretty, photogenic creature that didn’t move too much and would not dart into the woods the second I zoomed in. Too stupid to even be vain, she would not notice when I left the lens cap on, nor snicker when the photos showed nothing more than a smudge of calico.

Photo #1: Yes . . . it always starts innocently . . . .

It seems that oblivious, dopey look fooled me.

Now, as evidenced here, I am absorbed. Obsessed. I cannot stop taking pictures of Flo. Flo lying on the bed. Flo sitting on the couch. Flo staring out the window from her house. All culminating in my directorial debut feature: the action-packed, ten-second epic
Flo Sitting on the Floor (with an intense performance by your truly as I try to persuade Flo to do something! A cult classic in the making!)

Perhaps, from looking at these photos, the first in the several hundred taken so far, you may gain some insight as to why a sane and sensible post-post modernist, artistically traditional, classical music fan would waste so much precious life force on something so relentlessly, disturbingly . . .

I hate cute. And this cat is an evil manifestation of cuteness: Evil, because Cats Make You Do Things. And the cuter they are, the more Things they make you do. Like eat up your hard drive with endless endless photos of them.

Those of you whose lives are entangled with these creatures know my meaning, right down to your DNA. I, for one, never intended to write what is dismissed by
litterateurs as a “Cat Column,” a form of feuilliton that should have been buried in the cultural landfill with Beatle-reunion rumors. (Even the innocent prefix litter- compels me to spring from my desk to check the Cat Box). When I started this series of online essays, I swore on a stack of E.B. White that I would never dare even think of competing with the world’s greatest (and only) regular Cat Columnist.

Photo #543. . . now you see why!

But while I have betrayed my word and your trust, allow me to mount a defense:

It’s all the Cat's fault. Remember: Cats Make You Do Things. As Jon Carroll and John Hodgman must share a spoon of blame for the existence of this forum, so Flo must bear responsibility on her small furry shoulders for the waste of an expensive camera and your precious time (Note,
in this portrait of Hodgman, the Looming Menace at the bottom! Yes! Hodgman knows!)

Photo #996: "Yeah, I'll watch the goddamn birdie alright . . . . "

This has gone too far, far past the point of feeding, brushing, petting, skritchy-skratching, and baby talk. Already, I have hounded—no mewed at the door of every Bay Area photo gallery for a chance to exhibit my nearly one thousand photos of Flo. (One gallery actually fed me a bowl of milk. Lucky I was thirsty.) Not since the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog has such a ruthlessly innocent and daft creature been the trigger of such bizarre behavior by your distressed correspondent.

This had better stop soon: Like, say, before I die. I can’t say I hold much hope. The way things are going, I may face reincarnation as a scratching post. Or a prized living room carpet. Either way, I hope you have the decency to keep
your puddy's claws well trimmed! Think of me for once, will you?

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