Saturday, July 31, 2010


Summertime, and the livin’ is sleazy. At least during the day, and at least in New York City. This past month I’ve felt like a fish bein’ fried, pale and bloated and soggy-groggy, running from a smarmy sun. The Boomtown Rats’ “Someone’s Looking at You” comes to my mind…You know most killing is committed at 90 degrees, when it’s too hot to breathe and it’s too hot to think…

The kind of heat and intensity that drives cats like Oscar to steal underwear, day in, day out. And what for? He won’t wear it.

But when the sun sets, like a nasty drunk passing out, it’s a-whole-nother story. One Friday in early July, I found a new/true appreciation for the citified summer evening. I was walking home from yoga after a 100-degree day, and at one point I felt everyone else on the street start to collectively slink, right in rhythm with the night that wasn’t quite falling but shimmering its way to the pavement. A dusty-dusk dance done by everyone from the Chinese delivery guy on his bike, its silver bell glimmering like an urban firefly, to the curvy lady in front of Radio Shack in her red satin dress, looking down at her own boobs and feeling happy.

It makes me think of one summer night in East Hampton, the summer after we graduated from high school. And honestly, I’d totally forgotten this until some magic word or feeling loosened my memory last night. Highly unlike me, someone who still remembers my friends’ phone numbers from third grade. Anyway, we were at the bay, which is quite different from the ocean—bathtub vs. Jacuzzi, holding hands vs. up-against-the-wall, big and deep but still knowable and safe—and it was getting dark. I’m not sure how we got there, who all was there or who invited us, but I wound up kissing this boy, lying on the sand and then again in hip bone-high, just-us-in-night-black water, everything all sparkly-dark. I knew who he was but had never spoken to him before that night and never spoke to him after that, the only witness to our sole interaction being the moon.

I realize now, wow, that was a really nice time. A poem. Thank you. I should have put out but honestly had no idea what I was doing. And I salute our tongues and fingertips, whispery stars and bathtub waves, sexy stoner boys with longish hair and girls who feel the pull of the moon.

A song you have to listen to all the way through to get to the last line if you don’t already know what it is
The Beach Boys, I’d Love Just Once to See You

Here's Brian doing it live in 2008:

Upfront and out there
The Strangeloves, Nighttime

The English Beat, The End of the Party
It takes a while to get started, fast forward if you need. Pull back your cover I can love you for all time/But do it now, you know there's never a next time. Killer!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Spirit Dance Unfolding: For Loma P. & The Neetch Cat

Last night I dreamed about Loma P. and the Neetch Cat. You’ve met Loma P. before , but I don’t think I’ve told you about Neetch. Named after Friedrich Nietzsche, he was a classic cow-colored cat who used to pee in the toilet and steal corn on the cob straight from the pot. He was a protector cat, and I sure needed it—I was pretty stupid at the time, testing my Dionysian waters and giving my phone numbers to cab drivers and the guy from the bagel store who called me “Smiley,” just because they asked.

So in my dream, I was in my room at college, and I had both cats with me. I had two big catteries for them. Loma P.’s was across the room from Neetch’s, and there were live trees growing inside and the cats would swing from the branches and do flips like monkeys. But one day, Neetch went over to Loma P.’s cattery, undid the latch and opened the door (you don’t need opposable thumbs in dreams), and lead Loma P. over to his pad so they could both be together.

Flip back to Brooklyn, circa early 1990s: In real life, everyone in our small brownstone was about to be evicted in a month because the guy we were giving the rent to was just pretending to be the landlord, and the city was going to seize the building. I found a new place and brought Neetch with me, planning to sneak in Loma P. (there must have been a one-cat limit) several weeks later. In the meantime, she'd be with my roommate in the old apartment.

When I went back to our old apartment to get her, I found out that Loma P. had been living in a vacant lot next to the building, which pains me to this day. Where did she sleep at night? She was a Cancer, a nesting kitty who’d stay in the house even though the backdoor was always open in our garden apartment.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to write more.

But I will never forget the Neetch Cat’s eyes the day I brought Loma P. home—it was like the sun rose when he saw her.

I was pretty screwed up during that time in my life, and “responsible” was not how you’d describe me as a pet parent—or as a person, for that matter. But that was the one time I can say I did the best I could. It was all in the Neetch Cat’s eyes. Something in our story together was righted, like you flip the last card in the hand you’re holding and you get Black Jack. And pick up the next card.

Thank you, my black-and-white bandit, for your pink nose and half of a tail. For welcoming me into your family and opening the door to a room full of cat angels. And for giving me another chance.

You, too, Loma P.

Music that’s even better with corn on the cob
#9 Dream, John Lennon
Just play it over and over and over.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Hear You Knocking

My cat Derrick is smart! Lately I’ve been training him to go to the front door and stand on his hind legs when he wants to go out. We like to sit in the hallway together and have quiet time. He rolls on the carpet and purrs loudly, and I put my feet up on the wall and rub his ears.

Not much goes on in the hallway, but every once in awhile he meets a neighbor or (gasp!) the UPS man, who declared him very handsome. Then there was the time someone put a big garbage can in the hallway, right next to the garbage chute. WTF?!! It remained there for a week. I finally lifted the lid, unleashing a swarm of fruit flies. Me & Derrick (er…me) wrote a note saying how gross it was to randomly leave a garbage can full of fruit flies in the hallway, and it was gone the next morning…

Anyway, Derrick’s training all started with him simply sitting by the door and meowing, and me letting him out. But one day, he stood up and leaned against the door with his front paws—it was like he was reaching for the knob. It’s so not fair, the whole opposable thumbs thing! So now when Derrick goes to the door, I tap the doorknob and say, “What does Derrick do when he wants to go out?” As you can see, he is a fast learner.

He doesn’t know this yet, but next up I’m adding on jazz hands…or, in his case, jazz paws. It’ll be like he’s raising his hand to go out—and performing in a Fosse number all in one!

And the point I (we) wanted to make? You never know what you might get if you just ask.

Music to play at your very own jamb (get it?!) session

I Hear You Knocking, Dave Edmunds...this is John Lennon's fave version of this old chestnut.

Knock Three Times, Tony Orlando & Dawn

Open Sesame, Kool & The Gang

Behind That Locked Door (early take), George Harrison
Did you know that Olivia Newton John covered this? Me neither!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Surf's Up

Just 5 or so mornings ago, I was on Ogunquit beach in Maine. It was 6:30 and foggy, a black-and-white world that may as well have been the moon. There were a few other people on the beach with me, but they were faraway and fuzzy like dust, stagehands in a play building a set for Day.

Then the sun dropped whatever it was busy doing (eating oatmeal?) and out of nowhere, cut through the mist like a light switch flipping on, not rising but arriving all at once… I thought of the Beach Boys’ song "Surf’s Up"—well, the 1967 version linked to below—a song that just sort of isn’t and then kinda is…honestly, listen, it just rolls in out of nowhere and fills you up:

Surf’s Up demo, plus Brian singing it on Leonard Bernstein's Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution TV special

Beautiful, right? A ton of cool stuff has been written and said about it—the juiciest probably being Jules Siegel’s article, “Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!,” in which Brian Wilson plays for the interviewer the black acetate dub of the song at his home, explaining its meaning, line by line. It’s pretty intense and very un-“French bikini on a Hawaiian Island doll,” but the best part is what he does when the song is over:

Wilson went into the kitchen and squirted Reddi-Whip direct from the can into his mouth; made himself a chocolate Great Shake, and ate a couple of candy bars…

I hope no one thinks I’m making fun of Brian—you know, the stories of him hanging out in his bedroom for 3 years and eating cheeseburgers, the ones that people can’t seem to get enough of. In fact, if you type in “brian wilson” in the Google Images searchbox, one of the choices it pre-fills in for you is “brian wilson fat,” which made me mad/sad all at once.

No. I just think it’s so endearing/perfect in a fairy tale/”children’s song” sort of way that a self-described “dumb angel” would fuel a masterpiece on whipped cream. Willy Wonka, with water and waves.