As the decade comes to a close I’m sitting here wondering what the 2010s decade meant to me. . .
For one thing it was the Moo Decade. Moo Cat was 1-year-old in 2010, and she spanned the entire decade for me.
And I would spend pretty much the entire decade living outside, aside from about a year indoors.
I started out the decade at 53, still a relatively young man. And ended it at 63, officially an old man, a bona-fide senior citizen.
The decade started with Obama. And ended with Trump. Which maybe was a sign of the schitzo state of America. That we’d go from one extreme to the other, both unprecedented, though in exact opposite ways — the first black president, and then the first billionaire non-politician president. It was like America was desperately searching for a new identity, a new direction.
2009 was definitely an end-of-an-era in my life. Just about everything about the life I had been leading for decades came to an end that year. I published my last book, my best friend Duncan died, and in December of 2009 the street vending gig I had been doing for 20 years came to an end.
For lack of anything better to do, I rented out a little studio apartment in this trailer park in this little town in the middle of the Arizona desert. And I sat there in my little room by myself for 3 months trying to figure out a new direction I could go with my my life (PS. I didn’t). I got drunk just about every night on beer and whiskey. And watched a lot of TV for the first time in 20 years (the shows I remember are The Kardashians, The Dave Chapelle Show, and this info-mercial for the Girls Gone Wild video that played over and over late at night). And I’d get this almost fiendish, feverish intensity from the whiskey, like I was sweaty-crazed and bouncing off the walls of my little room. And late at night I would come up with all these incredible ideas for the new direction I was going to go with my life. And I’d make all these incredible plans for what I was going to do next and how I was going to do it. But the next morning, when I woke up hungover, I’d realize they were just pipe dreams.
I spent New Year’s Eve 2010 in that little studio apartment in that mad state. As a new decade was about to unfold. . . The amazing thing is how quickly those 10 years flew by. Sheesh.
Scaredy Cat had her first litter in 2016. Two kittens. One looked just like the dad, this burly tom I named Owl. And one looked just like the mom. So that was some nice symmetry. So I named the kittens Mini Owl and Mini Scaredy.
Scaredy Cat was very affectionate with her kittens. She had previously had two miscarriages (one, right on top of my blankets). So I think it was a big relief to finally successfully pull it.
Mini Scaredy — true to her name — was somewhat shy, and it took awhile before she began to trust me. Often she’d hide behind her mom, and would back away if I tried to pet her.
Mini Owl was the opposite — bold and assertive. Right from when he first showed up at my campsite at 3 months old, he connected with me. He was constantly watching me, like he was studying me. And after eating breakfast, he’d immediately trot over and hang out with me for a bit.
Playful and mischievous, Mini Owl was always getting into some kind of trouble. And he quickly became one of my favorites.
Here’s a shot of the two cosmic kittens, nestling with mom at nap-time. The on-going drama at the time was, Mini Owl wanted to constantly suck on Mom’s teat. He was a little monster programmed to devour and consume everything in his path. Ha ha. But as loving as Mom was, she had to explain to Junior the cruel facts of life: “THE PARTY IS OVER, DUDE! YOU’RE 6 MONTHS OLD NOW! GET OFF MY TEAT!!” She’d hiss at him, take a swat at him, and then go back to sleep. Ha ha. Cats.
What’s that old joke about the difference between cats and dogs: The dog looks at you and thinks to himself, “You feed me, you shelter me, you love me. YOU must be GOD!” The cat looks at you and thinks to himself, “You feed me, you shelter me, you love me. *I* must be GOD!”
At any rate, my feral cats are quite comfortable with the idea of me serving them their breakfast every morning. It’s funny. I woke up the other morning at my campsite, and all four of my feral cats were waiting for me bright and early. They hadn’t been fed in three days because of the big rainstorm, so they were all raring to go. And they were all lined up in a line down the trail at four different spots, with about five yards of space between each of them (they’re always feuding with each other so they keep a respectful distance between them).
I fixed four dishes of cat food and trotted down the trail and delivered the food to each cat at their particular station. I felt like a maitre ‘d serving four different tables. Ha ha. And they were definitely hungry. Each one polished off an entire 13-ounce can of cat food, as well as a bunch of dry food. They all seemed like they made it through the first big storm of the season in fine fettle.
And then I crawled back into my sleeping bag, and me and Mini Scaredy slept until 1:30 in the afternoon. Getting to sleep in late is one of the big fringe benefits of being a bum (and a cat).
Mini Scaredy is so attached to me, it’s a little weird. She waits for me to show up every night. Sleeps along side me all night long. And hangs out with me all morning. Right up until I pack up and leave. Then watches, forlornly, as I walk off down the trail. No doubt thinking: “I will miss you so much while you’re gone. But it’s probably a good thing. Because you need to go downtown and get a fresh supply of cat food to bring back to me.” Ha ha.
And she’s fiercely jealous and possessive if any of the other feral cats try to get close to me. When I go down the trail to feed the other cats, when I come back, she’ll sniff me and give me this hurtful look, like: “I can smell the scent of that other bitch on your clothes!! Explain yourself, man!!”
Sometimes I look at her when she’s lying beside me, and I’ll wonder: “What is this creature??” This cat. She’s largely a mystery to me. I’m a mystery to myself, after all. Life is a big old mystery when you really come down to it.
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.
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.
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.
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.