28 November 2009

Eddie Sebastian,Private Eye: An Appreciation

Eddie Sebastian Private Eye is a twenty year old cat. He is the oddest animal I've ever known.

Ed is,in his mind, many things: a bon vivant, a devil with the ladies, a sculptor, the official greeter for my building, a Fighter of Dogs, and (as we shall see) a major player on the New York Real Estate Scene.
In real life, he is a skinny eunuch with white eyebrows: the rest of him is the exact color orange of the hip leatherette vinyl jackets worn by Starsky and Hutch-type private eyes in 1970's cop shows[hence his name]. But he has never let reality bother him: when a pretty lady walks into my apartment, he strolls over to her, his inner Barry White Love Soundtrack obviously playing a seductive disco beat, and then, when she is seated, he lies on his back across one of her feet, the better to show off his belly. "hey baby", he says,"betcha never seen nothin like THIS before, huh?"
The ladies go crazy over him, proving yet again that confidence is everything. One friend stitched him a heart shaped red pillow stuffed with catnip, with the word "I Love Ed" embroidered on the front in white cursive script. Sometimes he uses it as a pillow, but sometimes I find it under the bookcase, because he likes to prove that no woman can own him, baby. He is a free n easy swinger.

Many years ago, when I was dating some painter, he asked if he could borrow Ed to deal with a sudden mouse problem in the studio. I said "sure." So Ed lived there for a while,intently watching the guy paint and sculpt. Obviously,he took notes, because one night we walked into the studio to find that Ed has made his own site specific piece: he had surrounded the cat food tin on the floor with nine perfectly symmetrical piles of homogenous stuff: one pile of cat fur fluff, one pile of wood shavings, one pile of dry cat food...nine round piles surrounding the cat food can in a circle. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, the goddamndest thing I've ever seen. He trotted up to meet us as we entered, and led us to it, looking back every two seconds to make sure we were following, and then he stood there with an attitude that said, quite clearly, "ta-DAH!"
If I'd been thinking straight, i would have photographed it and then found him an art dealer. Oh well.

When we were living in Carroll gardens, we had an apartment with a landing that had an entrance to the apartment on either side: it was possible to go out through the kitchen door and go straight through to the bedroom door. One day, Ed scratched at the kitchen door, so he could go exploring. Finding himself on the landing, he went across and scratched on the bedroom door. We let him in. He stopped, and stiffened in astonishment. "Hey!" his attitude said. I have ANOTHER apartment, exactly like THIS one! Then he looked at us. "And you guys look just like those OTHER people! This is AMAZING!!" He walked around the entire apartment, his tail a quivering question mark of amazement. He couldn't believe it. Here he was, only three, and yet he owned TWO apartments in a pretty nice section of Brooklyn. AND servants. This was GREAT! He walked up to the kitchen door (which I'd closed) and scratched to be let out, then did the same drill: walked to the bedroom door and scratched to be let in, and once again was completely overcome with delight to find that he had...yes..THREE apartments! With servants! In a nice section of Brooklyn! God DAMN! Same inspection, same quivering tail....
Since it was a Sunday afternoon with not much on, I decided to see how many times he'd repeat his voyage of Amazing Real Estate discovery. the answer was...eighteen times. Each time he seemed progressively more chuffed. At the end of it all, he turned around three times in a circle, curled up, and went to sleep...for sixteen hours. Hey, real estate mogul hood is TIRING.

The day we moved into that place, I was piling up boxes and Ed was exploring the fireplace. Suddenly, I heard a "CLANG!" and a black cat I'd never seen before went scooting into the room and hid under the couch. I couldn't understand where the black cat had come from. And where was Ed? When I picked up the noir stranger and my hands turned pitch colored, i got suspicious, and put the intruder under the bathroom tap: as the water ran, he gradually revealed himself to be a ginger cat named Ed, who had figured out how to release the thing on the fireplace that held all the soot back, and got drenched in it. Weirdo.

For ten years, he had a ritual that was as ironclad as it was baffling: he did what we called "The Work." It all started one night not long after we were married: ay three a.m., a series of inexplicable, loud and bizarrely specific noises began issuing from the kitchen. I turned to my spouse. "hey, wake up. I hear something that sounds like someone is tipping over a series of small marble busts in the kitchen.
the then-spouse awoke, and listened for a moment. "My God, that IS what it sounds like. What the hell?"
I got up, and walking into the kitchen, switched on the light, to find Ed sitting there with a "who, me?" expression, he golden eyes wide with completely spurious innocence. "Nothing to see HERE," he intimated. "Certainly no small marble busts. Especially not of Napoleon."
Eyeing him suspiciously, I stood, irresolute, but his innocence convinced me, and I went back to bed.
The next night, 3 a.m., we were awakened by what sounded like someone teaching hamsters to pole dance.
"Psst! Wake up!" I nudged my fella.
He sat up, and rubbed his eyes, and listened for a moment. then a strange expression crossed his face. "Is there some sort of hamster strip club around here?" he asked.
'It's Ed!" I hissed. "What is he Doing!"
We listened intently for a moment. Then my husband's face relaxed.
"He is doing...The Work."
"Oh. I think you're right." I had to agree.
"And...the Work Must Continue," he said, and started snoring.
This went on for years. I thought it was just a folie a deux, that all married people had delusions about their pets, until a brother in law stayed overnight i the study. In the morning, Pete got up and I found him searching through he trash.
"What are you DOING, dude? I made you a nice breakfast, it's on the table, you don't actually forage for scraps, you know."
He muttered "yeah, yeah.." distractedly. the he straightened up and faced me squarely.
Listen," he said, "I could swear I heard someone building a small, dog-powered dirigible last night." He looked defiant." I know that sounds crazy.But it was an inexplicable yet very specific noise."
"Oh, THAT," I said, relieved. "That was just...The Work."
At that moment, Ed strolled by, tail in the air.
"And, "I continued, "the Work..Must Continue."
"Oh, okay, "said pete. "Then I want coffee."

Many years later, after Ed patrols the hallway here twice a day, and greets visitors by officiously showing them the many amenities of the building, such as the stairs, the floor, the stairs again and the place where I once dropped a platter of fried chicken (a day that will live forever as a golden memory for Ed), and after he challenges the two pitbulls who belong to the nice lesbian postal workers on the sixth floor to a duel (thank god Susan, their main walker, has very good leash control), he comes back in, and after checking to see if there are any ladies aside from me, he sits in his favorite place. the inside of a the base of a wicker stool. It's round and perfect for an old guy to curl up in, and he can also keep an eye on what's going on, in case pit bulls or Pretty ladies stop by and Action needs to be taken.
These days, he's not as spry as he used to be. I noticed recently that he doesn't hear me when I say "Ed man, I'm home, pal!" and he can't hear the celestial sound of a can opening. Sometimes he falls over, but I always act like I don't see, and he gets up again and starts nonchalantly cleaning the one area on his bod he cleans, a patch the size of a quarter near his right leg. Pointless, but apparently VERY important.
He has to take medicine, and his eye is a little cloudy, and I think he might be nearing his last days, but he's proved me wrong before. But just in case, some nights I sleep in the floor, because he can't make it up the ladder to the loft bed, and he cries when he feels he is not getting his fair share of attention. he retired from the Work some four ears ago. Except one night, when my friend Jennifer stayed over, a longtime Pretty Lady friend and admirer of Ed's.
As I was making coffee in the morning, she said, "Is it possible that someone was teaching mice carpentry here last night? I swear I thought I heard really tiny sawing."
I asked, carefully, "What time was this, Jenjen?"
She tought for a moment. "Oh...maybe 3 a.m?"

I smiled. The Master had come out of retirement. Like Sinatra, Like Streisand, like he great masters before him, he always had one last trick up his sleeve for his admirers.

Because..the Work Must Continue.

And so I wrap myself in a blanket on the carpet, solemnly hand Ed his red heartshaped pillow, and we both settle down for a cat nap, dreaming of catnip, fried chicken, and...The Work.


Author's note: Today would have been Ed's birthday. Sadly, he left us recently,at the ripe old age age of 23.
A week before he died, he was staying at my (now ex) husband's place. Ed asked to go into the backyard.There was a full moon,and Ed spent an hour gazing at the moon,strolling the perimeter of the garden,and taking time to look at and smell eaxh flower. It was as though he was saying "Thank you,World.It's all been beautiful. Goodbye."
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