Words, poised like fickle felines on a windowsill, come to me only at will. Theirs, not mine.
They remain remote. Distant. Taunting. Teasing, like the lure of a feathered mouse on a string on a stick, just beyond reach. I will not satisfy the cruel kitty cosmos by reacting. I will gaze out the window at the loneliness instead. Look at all that loneliness. Sitting out there. All by itself.
Words are of little value here anyway, as many of my critics will attest. Mere alphabetical combinations cannot convey what is, inherently, a visceral and visual experience -- the viewing of Internet cat videos. Not just one, but many. Consumed en masse, overwhelming the senses like a nepeta-cataria-induced stupor. So many cats. So very, very many.
Oh, the hilarity. The summit of felidae felicity. Yet I remain aloof. Alas, I must write.
Old news, you say, judgmentally, cattily. True, this furry onslaught occurred this past weekend as the traveling Internet Cat Video Festival stopped in Oakland. But I did not attend the main event with the crush of 6,000 humans converging in a parking lot like so many back-alley strays to watch the show on The Great Wall (The Great Caterwaul, if you will). Rather, I attended the preview the night before in blessed near-privacy with a mere 100 or so cat lovers at the Oakland Museum of California. So civilized. Dignified. Perhaps there is hope for us all. No. No, there is not.
Cats gone wild
The event was a catalyst for intellect and self-examination and, ooh wait, there's something shiny! Dancing cat people, one in gold lamé, began licking their paws, meowing, hissing and generally mimicking feline behavior on stage before the film. Three cat women, one cat man. Cat man see, can man do. I hoped they'd all been fixed. Finally, they napped.
Still awaiting the film, we were brought low by reality. Statistics. America has 86 million pet cats -- and 50 million strays. Sadness engulfed me. Soon, spirits were lifted by a cat chat (a "chat" chat, en francais), hosted by Rene de Guzman, the museum's senior art curator. A brave man. An anti-cat man. "I have allergies," he said. Surely this man knows loneliness.
His unpopular views were countered by Douglas Long, the head of the museum's natural science wing (which reopens May 31). "We don't look at cats as animals," he said. "We look at them as little people in cat suits." Gold lamé cat suits, mayhaps?
They were joined by Shiva Rajaraman from YouTube and Scott Stulen, program director from the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis, which developed the cat-vid fest and also holds events such as musical lawn mowing and concerts for two people at a time inside igloos. You may draw your own conclusions from that.
At last, the film. Cats playing pat-a-cake. Cats battling apples in life-and-death struggles. Cats battling self-doubt. Cats flying through the air with the greatest of fleas. Cats mysteriously dressed up like sushi. I laughed. I cried. I craved some wasabi.
Cat as cat can
Through it all, a nagging thought scratched at the back of my mind, digging up a memory, a revelation that I, too, was one of them. No, not a cat. Mon dieu! But rather a producer of cat videos.
It was long ago. They weren't called cat videos then. There was no Internet. There was no joy. Rather, they were called me getting hold of my dad's Super 8 camera and making a home movie of our cat, Mewsette, and the kittens. My parents had allowed one litter so that I might witness the wondrous, if gross, miracle of kitty birth. I shall not state the year. Time is irrelevant. But we named the babes after characters in my parents' favorite TV shows of the time: Columbo, Mannix, Kitty Carlisle, Tyler (for Mary Tyler Moore) and, for some unknown reason, Muffy.
My film, my masterpiece, involved stop-motion animation. Blue construction-paper letters appeared one-by-one out of thin air, spelling out the film's creative title: "T-h-e K-i-t-t-e-n-s." It was impressive. A bright spot in this bleak universe. The kittens did the rest, popping out of Kleenex boxes, getting their claws stuck in the drapes and dangling helplessly, like a feathered mouse on a string on a stick. But not.
Ah, cruel universe. I could have posted this online and made millions, in whatever way it is that people make millions with Internet videos, a talent that remains remote, distant, taunting to me.