Of Cats and Characters



photograph by Bob Capazzo

Halloween has just passed, but I don’t need it to be reminded of black cats.  We have two of them. Cats have never gotten enough credit, except from the ancient Egyptians. I love cats. Dogs, too. All animals, really—especially the kind you can hug. That rules out snakes and snapping turtles, but they also have their fans. Remember Mr. Arden at Country Day? He had a huge frog he sometimes hid under an inverted flowerpot on his desk. On one memorable Parents’ Night, he lifted the pot, the thing raised itself up on its hind legs and a mother ran screaming from the room.

Growing up, we were told that cats weren’t allowed in our apartment in Cleveland. In truth, my father hated them (I never understood why). My mother gave up that fight after one of us kids brought home a stray who proceeded to have a litter in the living room and Mother had to call the ASPCA to come in a hurry. All I ever asked Santa to bring me for Christmas was a kitten. In fact, the story goes that when I was little, a woman asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I told her I wanted to run a cathouse. I never did live that one down.

So when Jack proposed to me, I told him there were three things I wanted in life besides him: a piano, a fireplace and a kitten. And he came through. My first cat was named Sybil. She was marmalade color, exceptionally bright and had something very Greek prophetess about her. She would sit on my shoulder as I drove down Shaker Boulevard, look both ways at stop signs, walk up the front path into my mother’s building, get into the elevator, ride up to the second floor, walk into the apartment and stretch out on the lavender velvet Louis Seize couch with the gold fleur de lis. She knew she was beautiful. 

Sybil’s life with us was short. She got hit by a car and didn’t make it. But the wise old father of a friend had forewarned me: “Once you start getting pets, you’re going to cry a lot of tears over a lot of little graves. But they’re worth it.” He was right.

Next came Tina Marie, a longhaired gray that was unbelievably patient with children. One morning I found wee Jonathan in his Dr. Denton’s sitting on the silver lid of a big crystal punch bowl in a corner of the dining room. Inside, eyeing me wistfully, was Tina Marie. When she would deign to sit beside our two-year-old daughter, Audrey was ecstatic. “Look, Mommy,” she’d say. “Tina’s purring on me!” From Nancy and Bob Lane we got a kitten we called Toughie, then “Toofee” after we discovered it was a female. There was Titty, Rutabaga and, oh yes, Brute, a little black one that our golden retriever Charlie, feeling paternal, liked to carry around in his mouth. We’ve always had dogs and cats together, which works just fine. No question, the cats are in charge. Even with their bowls of Alpo on the floor, our goldens refused to step into the kitchen until the cats finished dinner.

One of our cats became famous—Vincent, the seven-pound black and white Tuxedo cat Jonathan brought home from college. “Skinny Vinny” lived to be twenty-three, the oldest cat our vet Steve Zeide had ever cared for. He even survived our house fire. We saw him run out the front door and thought he was safe, but after making the final sweep of the house, a fireman emerged carrying Vinny, his nose covered with a tiny oxygen mask. He had been spooked by the commotion outside and had run back in to hide under his favorite chair upstairs in our bedroom. This, we were told, is unfortunately pretty common among pets, even children. How did Vinny manage to live so long? “Because he was so thin and adaptable,” said Dr. Zeide. Being neither, I guess I’ll die young.

Now we have Amos and his sister Annie named after the old radio show Amos ’n’ Andy. One of its stars and creators was Freeman Gosden whose daughter, Dottie Neely, sang with me in the Grace Notes. Amos and Annie are always together and always with us, helping us read, sleep, type and greet guests. They are totally affectionate felines. Amos is also courageous. Last summer we saw him chase an enormous red fox out of our backyard to protect his sister, who was hiding under a bush. That’s almost up there with the cats we saw at the Moscow circus trained to jump through hoops of fire.

Cats deserve to be celebrated. In London, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats ran for twenty-one years; in New York, it became the second longest-running show on Broadway. Agile actors costumed as cats stunned the audience by pussyfooting their way along balcony rails. During intermission everyone was invited on stage to meet Old Deuteronomy (the wise old cat that “lived many lives in succession”) and have him autograph their programs.

We were seated with friends in the mezzanine, so it took quite a while to get downstairs and across the orchestra to the stage. But what the … ? Jack was already there! He had slid down a chute the actors used to get to the stage from a side balcony and had almost landed in Old Deut’s lap.

I say, here’s to cats. They deserve some ink—as well as gratitude for the pleasure so many of them have given to so many of us.

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • Harvest Fair and Gift Show

    2014.11.01
     @ Second Congregational Church

    Event Will Include Hay Mazes, Games, Crafts, Food, Holiday Shopping The community is invited to a Harvest Fair and Gift Show on Saturday, Nov....

  • New Fitness Class: SalsaTone

    2014.11.01
     @ Latin Moves Dance Studio

    Starting November 1st ~ Every Saturday morning 10 to 11 AM Instructor: Melissa Lopez Start your weekend off right with this exciting cardio...

  • Exhibit Ira BARKOFF

    2014.10.11
     @ Canfin Gallery

    “The beauty of the physical world becomes a metaphor for the capacity of the spirit to reveal itself". Ira Barkoff Evocation of...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • Flinn Gallery Art Opening

    2014.10.30
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    FLINN GALLERY Opening Reception 'IN FOCUS' Thursday October 30, 6 - 8pm Seven artists share their visions - Carolyn Conrad,...

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • Flower Power

    2014.10.08
     @ SM Home Gallery

    SM Home Gallery show featuring two Greenwich based artists: Margaret Bragg and Penny Putnam. The art show runs thorough November 22nd....

  • Lynne Scalo Design Opening

    2014.11.05

    Please join Lynne Scalo, Greenwich Magazine and athome Magazine to celebrate the Greenwich showroom opening of Lynne Scalo Design Cocktails...

  • Breast Cancer Alliance Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show

    2014.11.06
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

    Breast Cancer Alliance to Host Branching Out, Coming Together, Aspiring to a Cure 19th Annual Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show: November 6,...

  • Free Screening of Documentary ' Children of the Inquisition'

    2014.11.06
     @ Bush-Holley House

    Join filmmaker Joseph Lovett as he presents his documentary film and multi-platform project of personal exploration and...

  • P.A.L.S. 2nd Annual Soarin' Soiree~ November 7, 2014

    2014.11.07
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    You are invited to join our State Senator, L. Scott Frantz and our First Selectman, Peter J. Tesei, for an awe-inspiring evening to benefit Patient...

  • John Hardy Event

    2014.11.08
     @ Bloomingdale's

    John Hardy One of a kind. One at a time. Each by hand. Bloomingdale's is inviting YOU to meet the head designer Guy Bedarida as he presents...

  • Olivine Gabbro Opening

    2014.11.08

    Olivine Gabbro invites you to join them for their Opening Party! DJ | Cocktails | H'Orderves | Gift Bags Made to Measure Beautifully...

  • Meet Joshua Safran, Author of "Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid"

    2014.11.11
     @ YWCA Greenwich

    Meet the author of this powerful memoir. Joshua Safran is an author, attorney, occasional rabbi, and nationally recognized advocate for...

  • Markham Roberts: Decorating the Way I See It

    2014.11.13
     @ Belle Haven Club

    Join us as Interior Designer Markham Roberts shares coveted design insights, key to creating the perfect home. The program will include...

  • AGAPANTHUS RISING

    2014.11.18
     @ Greenwich Water Club

    Like the Agapanthus flower, which starts as just a seed, we all have something to share with the world.  Sadly, we don't always nurture...

  • The Enchanted Forest

    2014.11.21
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

    Junior League of Greenwich presents 2014 Enchanted Forest! Holiday Boutiques Gingerbeard Workshops Santa's Breakfast...

  • Junior League of Greenwich The Enchanted Forest

    2014.11.21
     @ Junior League of Greenwich

    The Junior League of Greenwich (JLG) will host its annual holiday fundraiser, The Enchanted Forest on Friday, November 21 through Sunday, November...


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