Nano Scaredy the feral kitten

Last summer Micro Scaredy got noticeably pregnant for the first time. I watched as her belly grew bigger and bigger over a three month period.  Then one day I could tell she was no longer pregnant.  But her kittens were nowhere in sight. She had the litter stashed in a secret nest somewhere in the Berkeley hills. I could tell Micro Scaredy was nursing the litter because she had the distended nipples. And she’d show up to my campsite for breakfast, but instead of hanging out like she used to do, she’d immediately leave after eating to get back to her litter. A friend of mine — another homeless camper — told me he spotted the nest for a short time, hidden in between these big rocks, near the Greek Theater, about a mile from my campsite.

Then, about three months after Micro Scaredy gave birth, a little black feral kitten wandered into my campsite one morning. After hiding off in the distance for some time, she finally mustered the courage to approach the cat food dish.  I dubbed her Nano Scaredy — the fourth in the lineage, starting with Scaredy Cat, then Mini Scaredy, then Micro Scaredy, and now Nano Scaredy.

Nano Scaredy never quite trusted me. She would often hide behind a tree and watch me, like she was studying me, trying to figure out what I was. Friend or foe.

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After about two weeks she started getting a little comfortable at my campsite. She was usually waiting for me when I woke up in the morning, and she’d often call out to me, meowing for her breakfast. And every now and then she’d even dare to curl up on my blankets for a nap after she ate breakfast. She let me pet her a couple of times. But usually she would run away if I tried to approach her.

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I was just starting to make arrangements to take Nano Scaredy to the vet to get her fixed, when she disappeared. Mini Scaredy — the dominant cat of the tribe of feral cats — got into some kind of territorial conflict with Nano’s mother, Micro Scaredy. And ran Micro Scaredy off. And Nano Scaredy apparently went off with her, never to be seen again.

Such is the precarious life of a feral cat.

Gone but not forgotten, Nano Scaredy.

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Feral cats in the rain

I always wondered how my feral cats handled living outside in the rain. On this day last year I got a little idea.

I was sleeping at my campsite and the rain caught me by surprise. It started at 4 AM and came down steadily for 3 hours. Not a heavy rain. But 2/10th of an inch. Which is a bit of water. My blankets all got soaked. And there were puddles of water all around my cardboard matting.

When the sun finally came up, I noticed two of my cats were sleeping peacefully on top of my blankets down by my feet. The rain hadn’t bothered them in the least. I think to some degree their top layer of fur acts as a rain-repellant. Their own built-in raincoat.

At any rate, this is the look Mini Scaredy gave me when she woke up that morning. Like, “Would you get your ass up out of that puddle and feed us our breakfast??” Ha ha.

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I didn’t realize how difficult it was to be a Mother until I started collecting cats

You mothers that have to deal with a brood of brawling brats? You have my sympathies.

So yesterday morning Fatty was waiting about 20 yards down the trail, for me to bring her her breakfast. So I bring her a plate of food. But she doesn’t get to eat more than a couple bites before her arch-nemesis Mini Scaredy spots her and runs her down the trail and out of my campsite.

So that’s a waste of a can of cat food. Plus no breakfast for Fatty.

So this morning? Same scenario. Fatty waiting down the trail for her breakfast. And Mini Scaredy waiting on my blankets, ready to pounce on Fatty at the first move.

So I have to sneak down the hill from a back exit, circle around the perimeter of my entire campsite. Circle back up to the creek, where Fatty is waiting for me outside Mini Scaredy’s range (and wrath). And feed her her plate of food down there.

You know what they say. “A mother’s work is never done.”

Mating rituals of the modern feral cat

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The one and only Mini Scaredy.

The other night these cats, off in the distance, were howling and shrieking all night long at the top of their lungs. I had never heard anything like it. You probably could hear them from a mile away. At first I thought somebody was torturing a cat to death. But then I figured it was more likely you-know-what.

Then they were at again last night, howling and shrieking for hours, right up until the morning light. . . And then Mini Scaredy came galloping up the trail at top speed towards my campsite. I figured she was just coming for her breakfast. But then I noticed two gray toms, right behind her, chasing after her in a line — one of them big and burly, the other a bit smaller.

Mini Scaredy ran past the food dish, ran past me, and then sort of hid behind me. The two toms skidded to a stop about 10 yards from me. They weren’t bold enough to get any closer to me, even as obviously they wanted to get at Mini Scaredy. So they both darted off into the bushes, no doubt to sneak around my flank so they could get at Mini Scaredy from the other direction.

Mini Scaredy trotted to the food dish and started gobbling down her breakfast. That was pretty crafty of her to use me as a human shield, so she could briefly ditch her suitors and gobble down a quick breakfast before she continued her tryst.

After eating she sauntered over to me, purring loudly, and started clawing back and forth on the legs of my bluejeans as a show of affection. She’s obviously enjoying herself. Course, she’s not the one that’s going to have to come up with the child support payments 4 months from now.

I’m kind of feeling overwhelmed by the whole situation. But I guess I’m going to have to deal with it at some point.

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Cats can save your ass

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In his later years Charles Bukowski became fond of cats. Particularly stray cats. Which he would adopt when they showed up around his house. Ended up with about 10 of the little rugrats.

“I always feel a little better when I look at my cats.”

For a tough guy, Bukowski was a bit of a softy.

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 His cats ended up paying him back for his kindness.

In his later years Bukowski got deathly sick. Bukowski had spent most of his life poor, on skid row. But at this point in his life he was rich. So when he got sick he went to all these expensive Beverly Hills doctors in the hopes of healing him from his sickness. But none of the Docs could figure out what was wrong with him.

So after a solid year of feeling like dogshit on the verge of death, one day Bukowski was taking one of his cats to the vet. The vet happened to have his office in the seedy part of town. And the vet was well familiar with poor people, and the diseases that poor people suffer from.  Long story short: as soon as the vet saw Bukowski, and his sickly pallor, the vet said: “You’re obviously suffering from tuberculosis.”

Which turned out to be the exact correct diagnosis. The doc prescribed some meds for TB (tuberculosis). And Bukowski immediately recovered.

TB is a “poor man’s disease.” Which is why none of the rich, expensive Beverly Hills doctors were familiar with it (and boy were those well-respected physicians humiliated that they had failed to correctly diagnose what a humble vetinarian in the seedy part of town had instantly spotted).

But the point is: If Bukowski hadn’t been caring for his cats he probably would have died. The cats saved his ass.

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The psychic power of cats

 

 

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We were talking about the psychic powers of cats.

My friend Linda’s cat was always waiting for her at the front door of her apartment whenever she came home. Linda always just assumed the cat heard Linda’s feet when she was paddling down the hallway. And came running up to the door to greet her.

But then one day I was hanging out at Linda’s apartment by myself while Linda was out. Suddenly Linda’s cat went running to the front door and sat there. A few minutes later Linda showed up.

How the cat knew Linda was coming, I have no idea.

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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Bum (Nov. 5, 2009)

 

I’ve been homeless now for about 2 and a half years. I’ve been homeless off and on for a good portion of my life. I once tried to add up how much time I’ve spent sleeping outdoors over the years and it came out to about 8 or 9 years, starting at age 19. I wrote about it in my previous book, SURVIVING ON THE STREETS. Which is a goddam classic. Just like my latest book, ACID HEROES. I actually wrote, edited and self-published ACID HEROES (along with the great Pat Hartman) while living out of a sleeping bag in the rainy season. It just about killed me. Try publishing a book out of sleeping bag sometime. But the thing has sold nearly 20 copies already. So I guess it was worth it. I’m still baffled as to why my stuff doesn’t sell better. One theory is that I’m a self-deluded egomaniac with an inflated opinion of my talents (in other words, a typical artist). But that can’t possibly be it. Another theory is that I’m 20 years ahead of my times. Or 20 years behind the times. Or maybe I’m a genius in some alternate dimension of reality. Alas, you can’t cash the checks in this reality.

My life is so weird. Every morning I wake up and 4 feral cats are sitting there staring at me, waiting to be fed. A mother and her 3 kittens. The mother, Blondie, I’ve been feeding for almost 2 years. She’s strictly feral and always keeps a safe distance from me. But the kittens have known me since they was born. So they eat right out of my hands, and sleep nestled at the foot of my sleepingbag. I actually saw them being procreated. About 7 months ago Blondie, the shameless hussy, went wild in an orgy of cat passion. Those cats fucked for days. Non-stop. Some mornings Blondie would be dragging herself down the hill towards that cat food dish with a tom on her back pumping away the whole time. Finally she’d get down to the food dish and brush the tom off her with disdain. Another time, the tom wouldn’t let her be so she climbed way up this tree to get away from him. He climbed up right after her. Followed her all the way out to the end of this tree branch about 30 feet off the ground. Very precariously poised. No way out except down. Then a second female, also in heat, followed the two of them out to the end of the branch. So the 3 of them are sitting up there like a log-jam of backed up traffic. It makes you realize how strong the sex drive is. Even stronger than the survival drive. Willing to risk their lives for a piece of tail. Literally. Somehow, Blondie managed to manuever herself around the tom and escaped down the tree. With the other two cats in hot pursuit. Nowadays, when I see the kittens frolicking around by that tree, I wonder: Do they have any idea that that’s where they came from?

It’s pretty savage how they fuck, too. The tom sinks his teeth right into the back of the females neck. To give him extra pumping leverage, I guess. And when the female gets enough of it, she’s not adverse to slashing the male in the face with her claws. I was embarrassed to watch them. I mean, can’t they go do their business in private instead of right in front of me and my sleeping bag. But I guess I’m kind of a feral human myself. Thats part of my identification with those feral cats, I guess. I live like a wild animal myself, sleeping in the bushes under the stars and the moon and the rain. And we both do the same thing whenever we hear a strange sound in the woods. We both freeze and stare off in the distance in the direction of the sound. And we don’t move until we’ve been able to categorize the sound as either: a.) threatening, or b.) non-threatening. You’re in total survival mode in the deep dark woods. But once the cats realize it’s no threat, they immediately go back to goofing off. They turn it on and off in a second, all day long. Basically, them feral cats act like they’re stoned most of the time. frolicking and romping and investigating and generally just playing. It’s like some weird lesson of life to me, watching them feral cats. And I’ll look at them sometimes as they’re staring at me inscrutably (like cats do). And I’ll think. “They have eyes, and noses, and mouths, and ears, and they eat food and shit it out their kitty asses and fuck … ..” and its like, whatever Force is manifesting them is pretty similar to whatever Force is manifesting me. Sometimes I imagine that its God Himself who’s playing at being them cats. This divine life-force thats eternally dancing through the woods. They’re cosmic cats all right.

When the kittens were real little and still being nursed by Blondie in her secret nest, she would sometimes take the hot dogs that I tossed in her food dish and carry it in her teeth up to her kittens. Then, a couple weeks later, she brought the kittens down to the food dish for the first time. It was so cute to see her marching down the hill with the 3 kittens trooping behind her in a line. Here comes the troops. Now the kittens are about 4 months old and getting bigger every day. The little buggers eat like horses. It’s unbelievable how they pack it away. They’re eating me out of house and home. Or should I say houseless and homeless? Well, that’s enough goddam cat talk for one day. I’m already enough of an art fag as it is. Those cats really got me.

Feral cats on the attack. Blondie, Moo Cat and Keef prepare to pounce.

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The State of the Ace Backwords Address

.Ace Backwords, 53, former underground cartoonist who has been homeless for the past 3 years and is nearly blind, stands for a portrait on Wednesday March 17, 2010 in Berkeley, Calif. His friends are worried that he will soon die of exposure. Photo: Mike Kepka, The Chronicle

 Ace Backwords on death:

“I’m afraid of death. Even as I embrace it because I know that death is a return to the Godhead. This living life is more like death, the land of the living dead. Zombies. Sleep-walkers. I think when we die we actually become more alive. Death is probably like waking up from a really weird dream.”

Ace Backwords on sex:

“When I was younger I used to think about sex all the time. Now that I’m more mature I only think about it 90% of the time. So I’ve been able to develop some other interests and become a well-rounded human being. The thing that confuses me the most is when somebody is sexually attracted to me. I can’t help thinking: What’s wrong with you?

Ace Backwords on the streets:

“The streets are hard. They’re mostly made out of cement.”

Ace Backwords on the streets:

“To paraphrase David Letterman, the streets are just like high school except with rattier clothes and less teeth.”

Ace Backwords on God:

“God is everything. God is playing out all the parts. This life is a cosmic drama acted out on God’s own body.”

Ace Backwords on family:

“My whole family is nuts. Most people are, aren’t they? We’re all weirdos in our own special way.”

Ace Backwords on suffering:

“This life can really hurt. You can quote me on that, motherfucker.”

Ace Backwords on drugs:

“I’ve done most of them. Some of the time they work. Which is more than you can expect from most of the shit in this world. But after awhile they all turn on you. What goes up must come down. I always thought “ecstasy” was the greatest name for a product. Who wouldn’t want to score some of that. But then, there seems to be a market for heroin, too, and they call that “junk” and “scag” and “shit.” So people will buy anything, really.

Ace Backwords on drugs:

“I’ve always needed drugs. I always wanted them. I liked turning the channels on the television set in my mind.”

Ace Backwords on sex:

“Am I still thinking about sex?”

Ace Backwords on love:

“I’ve fallen in love 5-and-a-half times. There’s one I’m still not sure about.”

Ace Backwords on unrequited love:

“I’m the patron saint of unrequited love. All my love infatuations ended tragically. So I was obviously doing something wrong. And yet the weird thing is, to this day, I’m still really fond of all 5-and-a-half of them. Thats the sickest thing of all.”

Ace Backwords on art:

“Charles Bukowski and R. Crumb were the two great artists of my era. I was the third. But I was too humble to point it out.”

Ace Backwords on art:

“The art that lives on is the stuff that touches universal archetypes. Race, love, hate, sex, drugs, death, God. Some things never go out of season. They’ll still be smacking you in the face in the year 2247.”

Ace Backwords on cats:

“I have 4 feral cats that live in the hills near my campsight that I feed every morning. Cats are so much easier to relate to than people. All my cats ask of me is that I feed them and don’t bother them. So we’ve developed a relationship. I really like to watch them eat. And I’m not sure why. Maybe its because I can only eat 3 meals a day, but with the cats I get to squeeze in an extra meal vicariously.

Ace Backwords on sitting at a typer and blathering out verbiage:

“Sometimes I amuse myself with this chatter. Thats the best I can hope for.

Ace Backwords on himself:

“I can’t figure out who I am. The only thing I know for sure is that I’m perverse.”

Portrait of the Artist as an Old Bum

I’ve been homeless now for about 2 and a half years. I’ve been homeless off and on for a good portion of my life. I once tried to add up how much time I’ve spent sleeping outdoors over the years and it came out to about 8 or 9 years, starting at age 19. I wrote about it in my previous book, SURVIVING ON THE STREETS. Which is a goddam classic. Just like my latest book, ACID HEROES. I actually wrote, edited and self-published ACID HEROES (along with the great Pat Hartman) while living out of a sleeping bag in the rainy season. It just about killed me. Try publishing a book out of sleeping bag sometime. But the thing has sold nearly 20 copies already. So I guess it was worth it. I’m still baffled as to why my stuff doesn’t sell better. One theory is that I’m a self-deluded egomaniac with an inflated opinion of my talents (in other words, a typical artist). But that can’t possibly be it. Another theory is that I’m 20 years ahead of my times. Or 20 years behind the times. Or maybe I’m a genius in some alternate dimension of reality. Alas, you can’t cash the checks in this reality.

My life is so weird. Every morning I wake up and 4 feral cats are sitting there staring at me, waiting to be fed. A mother and her 3 kittens. The mother, Blondie, I’ve been feeding for almost 2 years. She’s strictly feral and always keeps a safe distance from me. But the kittens have known me since they was born. So they eat right out of my hands, and sleep nestled at the foot of my sleepingbag. I actually saw them being procreated. About 7 months ago Blondie, the shameless hussy, went wild in an orgy of cat passion. Those cats fucked for days. Non-stop. Some mornings Blondie would be dragging herself down the hill towards that cat food dish with a tom on her back pumping away the whole time. Finally she’d get down to the food dish and brush the tom off her with disdain. Another time, the tom wouldn’t let her be so she climbed way up this tree to get away from him. He climbed up right after her. Followed her all the way out to the end of this tree branch about 30 feet off the ground. Very precariously poised. No way out except down. Then a second female, also in heat, followed the two of them out to the end of the branch. So the 3 of them are sitting up there like a log-jam of backed up traffic. It makes you realize how strong the sex drive is. Even stronger than the survival drive. Willing to risk their lives for a piece of tail. Literally. Somehow, Blondie managed to manuever herself around the tom and escaped down the tree. With the other two cats in hot pursuit. Nowadays, when I see the kittens frolicking around by that tree, I wonder: Do they have any idea that that’s where they came from?

It’s pretty savage how they fuck, too. The tom sinks his teeth right into the back of the females neck. To give him extra pumping leverage, I guess. And when the female gets enough of it, she’s not adverse to slashing the male in the face with her claws. I was embarrassed to watch them. I mean, can’t they go do their business in private instead of right in front of me and my sleeping bag. But I guess I’m kind of a feral human myself. Thats part of my identification with those feral cats, I guess. I live like a wild animal myself, sleeping in the bushes under the stars and the moon and the rain. And we both do the same thing whenever we hear a strange sound in the woods. We both freeze and stare off in the distance in the direction of the sound. And we don’t move until we’ve been able to categorize the sound as either: a.) threatening, or b.) non-threatening. You’re in total survival mode in the deep dark woods. But once the cats realize it’s no threat, they immediately go back to goofing off. They turn it on and off in a second, all day long. Basically, them feral cats act like they’re stoned most of the time. frolicking and romping and investigating and generally just playing. It’s like some weird lesson of life to me, watching them feral cats. And I’ll look at them sometimes as they’re staring at me inscrutably (like cats do). And I’ll think. “They have eyes, and noses, and mouths, and ears, and they eat food and shit it out their kitty asses and fuck … ..” and its like, whatever Force is manifesting them is pretty similar to whatever Force is manifesting me. Sometimes I imagine that its God Himself who’s playing at being them cats. This divine life-force thats eternally dancing through the woods. They’re cosmic cats all right.

When the kittens were real little and still being nursed by Blondie in her secret nest, she would sometimes take the hot dogs that I tossed in her food dish and carry it in her teeth up to her kittens. Then, a couple weeks later, she brought the kittens down to the food dish for the first time. It was so cute to see her marching down the hill with the 3 kittens trooping behind her in a line. Here comes the troops. Now the kittens are about 4 months old and getting bigger every day. The little buggers eat like horses. It’s unbelievable how they pack it away. They’re eating me out of house and home. Or should I say houseless and homeless? Well, thats enough goddam cat talk for one day. I’m already enough of an art fag as it is. Those cats really got me.