Cool Cats

When I open the door to the front porch in the morning, I’m usually greeted by all three varmints: the dog (see every other post by yours truly) and his two best buds, Scrappy Pappy and Da Rat Jr. The mutt nut and his feline friends.

The varmints are excited and happy because great things are about to happen. Water dishes magically refill! Breakfast is served!

You know that point in every musical ever produced when someone bursts into song just because they feel so darn terrific? It’s like that for the critters every morning. I open the door, boom, showtime. Never fails.

Scrappy Pappy showed up one day and decided to stay. I actively discouraged this, but he was a highly-motivated cat. You could tell Scrappy Pappy liked to fight. You could also tell he wasn’t very good at it. His face had Lousy Pugilist written all over it.

But after a trip to the vet and a few tense weeks of hazing by the other furry residents, Scrappy Pappy settled in just fine. He has given up fighting for eating, which reminds me of that great scene in Raging Bull with De Niro and Pesci and the TV set.

When Pappy showed up, he was a moderately-sized yellow and white tabby with a checkered past and face.

Now he’s huge. All the scars have disappeared, except for a small place on his cheek where hair refuses to grow and a jagged line across his nose. Pappy is fat and happy and no longer scrappy.

Da Rat Jr. is an odd name for a cat, yes. DRJ was named after another cat, Da Rat. The original Rat now lives in New Orleans with the lovely, talented and vivacious Lynette Twynette. Both cats are petite black and gray tabbies, female, with remarkably similar temperaments. The original Rat got her name, at least in part, from a line in a Barry Hannah story: “I sensed the smallness of myself, my petty desires, my murky ratlike aggression.”

(A good time for a parenthetical space-filler: If you haven’t seen Raging Bull or read Barry Hannah, do yourself a favor. Raging Bull is, in my opinion, Martin Scorsese’s greatest film to date. Scorsese honks/detractors, fire at will. Hannah, arguably the only Southern writer to give Flannery O’Connor a run for her money, passed away in March at the age of 67. If you’re old, like me, you probably know this stuff. If you’re young, you probably don’t. A friend of mine who teaches college freshmen was recently shocked to learn his students had never heard of the Rolling Stones. The mind reels.)

Okay, that’s it. Equal time for the cats, done. I have no amazing cat anecdotes. Pappy sleeps about 20 hours a day and DRJ is usually stalking smaller, less-fortunate varmints. Bonus points for good indoor behavior during the cold months.

Back to the Stones. Sure, their heyday (from Let It Bleed through, say, Some Girls) was eons ago, and, thanks so much, guys, but we really don’t need another half-assed studio album, stadium tour, etc. We’re good. Haven’t picked up the Exile reissue yet, but I’ll eventually get around to it.

Yes, the Stones are geezer multi-millionaire nostalgia pimps. But they will always be cool.

Once upon a time, kids, it was hard to be cool. Playing in a rock and roll band was considered quite an insane thing to do. When he was six years old, Keith Richards’ mommy wasn’t driving him in the family minivan to Guitar Center for lessons. No, young Keith was out in a vacant lot with a hammer, beating on unexploded German ordnance, having a proper childhood.

By the time the Stones had perfected the trick of ripping off American blues and R&B and selling it back to America (good show, lads!), they were pretty much the most vilified, hated band in the world, simply for being the anti-Beatles.

They didn’t care. They were cool. They were cool when they were imitating Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. They were cool when they ditched the covers and started writing their own songs. The songs got better and better, and, finally, after years and years and years of hard work and harder living, they looked around and discovered they were, indeed, The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.

They paid their dues. And that will always be cool.

John Hicks lives outside the city limits, where eagles dare.

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