Prisoners, like the elderly and latter-day Luddites, are traveling way, way off the information superhighway. Me even employing a zero-currency term like “information superhighway” tells you just how far off the beaten path me and my ilk are as we rattle and bump down an unmarked gravel lane through a desolate, swampy region where basic cable, newspapers, and commercial radio still hold sway. These moribund media, dead for all practical purposes but just too stupid and obstinate to lay down, continue going through the motions as if their tiresome pandering actually had any import or significance. Present company excepted, naturally; the AVA is a vital, thriving organ and the last vestige of a once-proud tradition.
On occasion, something will, due to its extreme momentum, achieve Internet escape velocity and find its way onto Good Morning, America or some such panel of blithering jackdaws, and I am continually amazed and befuddled by what makes the cut. I have been on the Internet, can personally attest that there are a lot of interesting, provocative, beautiful, and exciting things to be found there. Much more so than couples whoring out their weddings to the general public by infusing them with whatever lame-ass cultural signifiers will garner them hits on YouTube, dads treating their babies like dress-up action figures, or addled children enjoying the effects of dental anesthesia.
There is, though, one persistent Internet meme who has indeed captured my fancy and imagination entire, and that is the ubiquitous and wonderful Grumpy Cat. Grumpy Cat, for those of you even more isolated than I am, is a cat-turned-cottage industry by virtue of its being cursed, or blessed, with a mug that looks perpetually as if someone had just urinated in his Friskies. Beginning as a humorous photo to which people appended humorously grumpy captions, G.C. now adorns the usual panoply of consumer products and even guest stars on some popular television programs.
It is not just grumpiness that defines this feline's features, though. Sometimes he looks worried and upset, as if he'd just been informed that his 401K took a serious hit, or that his recent colonoscopy required further tests. There's a whole range of negative emotions playing across his furry phiz at any given moment, and I find that quite often he looks exactly like I feel, leading me to adopt him as my spirit animal. I just want to give him a scratch and say, Grumps, I feel you, dog. It's gonna be okay, and I mean no disrespect by referring to you in the canine, it's just an expression.
I am, in general, a cat person, though not the sort that finds it necessary to talk about his cat, or pimp him out to the Internet, or buy cat-themed anything. I think a cat is a necessary furnishing to any household and a comfort to have around, but I leave it at that. I see cats as the self-cleaning ovens of the animal world; stick some food into them every now and then and they'll take care of the rest. Such affection as they see fit to dispense, I will accept and reciprocate; ditto with their equally frequent displays of disdain, apathy, and sneering contempt. On the whole, I find that cats appreciate my laissez-faire approach and we get along fine. They don't like people cooing and kissing at them, and I don't blame them. Neither do I. As cats well know, it is perfectly acceptable to show your love for someone by simply not scratching their face off.
My friend Katie has a cat with whom I've never been exactly simpatico. You may recall Katie from past adventures recounted here in this space; she's a classy dame, bright and attractive, who has never allowed me access to her lady parts despite my having asked politely several times. She occasionally tolerates my presence because I make her laugh and am able to converse intelligently on subjects she finds interesting, like film and cookery. Anyway, her cat, Marco, is a nondescript, beigeish, longhaired neutered male with one protruding fang, which gives him an off-kilter, slightly retarded appearance. He is genuinely stupid, or at the very least unendowed with any of the classically desirable feline traits like grace or cleanliness. He in clumsy, unkempt, and has an unhealthy fixation on his mistress, splaying himself protectively across her lap and glaring jealously whenever I or any other males enter his purview.
As a rule, Marco ignores me when I visit except for the aforementioned malevolent eye-fuck and occasionally shredding and/or shedding on any items of outerwear I've been foolish enough to leave unattended, with one notable exception. Whenever I am engaged in the various operations preparatory to introducing drugs into my system, all of a sudden Marco finds me the most fascinating thing since the feather on a string. Only let me pull out a baggie, a scale, a pipe, or any of the other accouterments of my avocation, and set to weighing, loading, chopping, or whatever, and there's Marco, clomping around like a cart-horse, sniffing and poking his nose everywhere and generally being a dangerous nuisance.
One day I went to visit Katie at her rustic seaside cottage just south of Fort Bragg, and in the midst of a lively discussion of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, she took a phone call and subsequently left to go conduct a little business. As the door closed, Marco repaired to a high shelf and, looking down at me, gave out with the most extravagantly elongated, contemptuous yawn ever perpetrated. "Yeah, well, fuck you too, Marco," I muttered. He cocked his head slightly to give me a view of his projecting tooth, which from my oblique and downward angle looked suspiciously like a sneer. "You think you're such hot stuff because you've got Katie to yourself," I said. "I'll have you know that she told me that if I was the last man on earth, we would probably hook up, so nyah nyah to you, buster. Now, I'm going to get high, so kindly keep your scrofulous ass away from me and I won't have to boil and eat you."
Marco's eyes widened a bit in response, not in fear but more as if to say, "Oh, really? Perhaps we'll just see about that."
I felt in the mood for a true bell-ringer, which in the parlance is what we call a sufficiently large enough quantity of high-quality meth administered intravenously to cause a chorus of carillons to begin a'clanging in one's skull. What causes the ringing I don't know and don't care to think about, as it's probably the death knell for certain crucial components of my cognitive apparatus, but it's an exhilarating and singular experience.
I excavated my kit from my jacket and began laying out my gear — spoon, distilled water, cotton balls and syringe. Marco looked down and assayed an interrogatory "Ern?"
"Don't even think about it, fool," I said. I had to do this quickly before the beast came down and ruined everything. I upended the contents of my baggie into the spoon, splashed 40 units of water over it, and stirred and mashed it into a clear, viscous solution. Before I could apply the filtering cotton to the mix, I heard the unmistakeable thud of Marco landing on the floor like a sack of potatoes "Fsssst! Go away!" I hissed, but he walked toward me insouciantly and hopped up onto the coffee table.
"Goddamn you," I said. The spoon was precariously full and wouldn't survive a hasty evacuation.
Marco walked to within inches of the operation and sat down in the classic upright cat pose, front paws between rear ones. I breathed a sigh of relief, but I'd forgotten about the finishing flourish that inevitably follows this attitude, and his tail whipped around his body and gently settled back down to earth, the tip landing squarely in my spoon. I watched in horror as my bell-ringer was absorbed by Marco's mangy fur.
Quick action was required here. Dumb as Marco was, he'd eventually grasp the presence of foreign material on his tail and try to get it off with the only cleaning tool at his disposal, his tongue, and we couldn't have that. First, I applied a sort of Vulcan nerve-pinch to Marco's scruff, causing him to go momentarily limp. There is a mechanism in the cat nervous system that allows for this, permitting mothers to transport kittens easily and amorous toms to immobilize their sweethearts prior to engaging in the forcible rape that passes for romance in the cat world. Then I used my forearm to pancake Marco down onto the coffee table and with my other hand got a firm grip on his tail. I popped the tip of it into my mouth and commenced sucking furiously on it, and it was precisely this tableau that assaulted Katie's eyes as she walked in the door — me apparently engaged in the act of either eating or sexually molesting her treasured feline companion — so I can't really blame her for screaming, but if you know anything at all about cat behavior, you know that there are two things they really don't like. Actually, the list of things cats dislike is significantly longer than that and would probably tax the storage capacity of a medium-sized thumb drive, but there are two biggies that are germane to this narrative.
One is being made to do anything they don't want to do. Cats are quite fiercely libertarian in outlook and will strenuously object to the merest suggestion that they engage in any action or behavior to which they have not given serious prior consideration and approval. The other is sudden loud noises, in particular those of the high-pitched, feminine-origin variety. Vulcan nerve-pinch or no, Marco began to vigorously agitate against the situation in toto, energetically applying the not insubstantial defensive gifts bequeathed him by millenia of feline evolution, to wit, teeth, claws, and the ability to employ them with blinding speed and terrifying ferocity.
When the fur (and skin) stopped flying, I was bleeding from about 18 different places and Marco was under a chair making demonic noises deep in his throat. "I can explain this, but first you have to catch the cat and wash his tail," I said.
She did, and I did, and I had actually retrieved enough product from my disgusting act of desperation to get pleasantly spun, cut though it was with cat hair and whatever dreck he'd lately been dragging his tail through. Katie thanked me for considering Marco's health and safety, but forbade me ever fixing in his presence again. I allowed as how that made sense, but I had to get in one good one on him while I could. "You know, Marco, with your tail all wet like that, you look just like a greasy old possum," I said.
Not surprisingly, he said nothing, but just curled up smugly and contentedly in her lap atop the Promised Land. Marco!