>Tom Waits Fest 7 (1996)
>LA, CA (Oct., 2K)
>Chicago Winter 2000-2001
>New Year's Eve 2000-1 (SF)
>New Year's Eve 2001-2 (NYC)
>NYC (May, '01)
>San Diego (August, '02)
>Burning Man (August, '02)
>Tom Waits Fest 12 (Oct., '02)
>Burnett 15 (April, '03)
>LATE Ride (July, '03)
>Burning Man 2K03 (August, '03)
>New Orleans (May, '04)
>Caius/Lessley Reception (June, '04)
>Keg/Carrie Wedding (June, '04)
>Noelkins Wedding (July, '04)
>X/Kennedy Wedding (Oct., '04)
>Storm King (Oct., '04)
This really happened to the
younger brother of the boyfriend of a friend of mine. This guy - we'll
call him Joe -- was professionally unemployed, but the way he made that
work was by dating a woman who had a steady teaching job and owned her
Even so, Joe and his buddies were always looking for the main chance -
the one bit of luck that would keep them unemployed, but rich instead
of poor. Lottery tickets, fast food sweepstakes, the race track. Any way
to turn 2 bucks into 20 million, or even 20 thousand. While Joe's planning
along those lines never seemed to amount to much, his ability to keep
his girlfriend on the reservation, to keep getting the milk for free as
they say, made him the envy of all his friends.
Joe's girlfriend, instead of marriage of kids, had cats. So many cats,
in fact, that she built them a house. No, more than a house. More than
just some boards held together with indoor-outdoor carpeting and staples.
This was a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece of construction for cats. Tunnels
and chutes and doors that allowed a constantly changing menagerie of strays
and tables and even purebreds from all over the neighborhood to roam and
hide and play to their hearts' delight. Not just a Cat House, but a Cat
Joe would sit and dream his avaricious dreams and he would stare at the
Cat Mansion for 6, 12 and 24, and sometimes even 30 packs at a time, never
seeing the same cat twice.
A few years back, when those "Laugh at Dad getting punched in the
groin" video shows were popular, Joe's girlfriend went out of town
to a teacher's convention. So, obviously, with the whole house to himself,
Joe threw a party for the whole weekend.
Maybe 36 hours into the weekend of fun and thoughts of just-add-water
wealth, Joe suddenly announced to his friends, "We're gonna get rich."
Some of his friends heard. Some laughed, but most just ignored him because
they were busy giving each other sobriety tests to see who was the most
able to make another beer run.
"We're gonna make a video," Joe further declared, "and
we're gonna win the funniest 10 grand prize."
After the second proclamation, Joe looked at the crowd, some of whom had
had the presence of mind to inch away, hands covering their vulnerable
areas. He luxuriated in the genius of his idea, until someone asked, "What're
we gonna put in the video?"
This was how Joe's ideas usually fell apart. There was a pause in the
action (not counting the sobriety testers, who were now searching through
each others' pockets for car keys).
Then Joe spotted the Cat Mansion.
Ten minutes later, Joe was drenching the Cat Mansion in lighter fluid
while the sobriety testers had split into two groups, one searching for
the camcorder, one for kitchen matches. Unfortunately, both groups were
By that time, cat noses were poking out all over the Cat Mansion, wondering
about the odor. With the soberest person in charge of the camcorder, Joe
made a ceremony out of lighting the first match, then igniting the Cat
All the cats broke for safety immediately, of course. So Joe rallied the
partiers to snatched up every cat they could grab and throw them back
toward the burning Cat Mansion. Because fire without cats was clearly
not funny enough to wrest 10 grand from competition such as cure babies
and dancing dogs.
Cats, having no sense of humor, wanted no part of the filmmaking process.
In the end, the video ended up showing what it must have been like at
the temple of Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess, with people, covered in
claw marks, blinded by blood loss and strong drink, crawling and leaping
around a bonfire, and begging for mercy.
The video never won a prize, never aired, and finally the production company
stopped taking Joe's calls. That's not the important part, though. The
important part is what had to be done about the plot of scorched earth
in Joe's girlfriend's backyard.
Two things you should know about the ranks of the professionally unemployed.
One: sometimes, in the face of impossible challenges like hiding the evidence
of cat arson, when you least expect them to band together and come up
with an ingenious solution, they do.
Two: they tend to know a lot of people in landscaping.
When Joe's girlfriend arrived at her house a little after three that Sunday
afternoon, the house was in lovely condition, just gorgeous. She found
that surprising and suspicious. Even so, when she looked out at the fresh
lines of sod in her backyard, it looked so perfect, peaceful and pastoral,
it took a full five seconds before she noticed the Cat Mansion had vanished.
When she asked Joe where it had gone, he looked at her with love gleaming
in his eyes, and he asked: "Cat Mansion? What Cat Mansion?"
That's what really happened. Or at least that's what I heard.
by the NPR contest asking for true stories, which would be "judged"
by Paul Auster.
in one burst while standing at the bar at the Rainbo Club on Damen Avenue.
Story finally finished to
be performed at a Coffee Hauuuuuus in Berkely, CA.