25 April 2012

Eddie Sebastian,Private Eye: A Cat Appreciation

Eddie Sebastian, Private Eye
note: Today would have been Eddie Sebastian, Private Eye"'s 25th birthday. This was written four years ago. Eddie left this planet in 2008...I think to go back to the planet he came from.

Ed is a twenty year old cat. He is the oddest animal I've ever known.

Ed is, in his own mind, many things: a Bon Vivant; a Devil With The Ladies, an Internationally Acclaimed Sculptor...also? 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? Eddie is a skinny orange-striped eunuch with white eyebrows: his fancy fur is the exact color orange of the hip leatherette vinyl jackets worn by Starsky and Hutch-type private eyes in 1970's copshows. But Ed has never let reality bother him: when a pretty lady friend 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", Ed says."Betcha never seen nothin like THIS before, huh? I think you wanna be my Lady NOW, am I right? I know I am, darlin. You...are my Forever Lady. ....PET me."

And, indeed...the Ladies go crazy over him, proving yet again that confidence is everything. One pretty lady friend of mine, the glamourous TamTam, actually stitched Ed a heartshaped red pillow- stuffed with catnip!- AND, with the words "I Love Ed", embroidered on the front in white cursive script. I was touched. Ed never said thank you. But he loves his comfy token of devotion: s
ometimes he uses it as a pillow, sometimes as a toy... but sometimes? I find it under the bookcase, because Eddie likes to make it clear that no woman can own him, baby.  He never made no promises. He is a free n easy swinger. He is his own man. Or would be, if he was a man, rather than, say, a relatively minuscule quadruped with orange eyebrows, and an ego the size of Detroit.

Some years ago, my friend Adam, an artist, asked if he could borrow Ed, the better to deal with a sudden Mouse Problem in Adam's studio. I said,  "Sure." So Ed went to live there for a while, spending his leisure time 
intently watching the artist paint and sculpt. Obviously, Ed took notes, because one night we walked into the studio, to find that Ed has made his own, site-specific sculptural art piece: he had surrounded the cat food tin on the floor, with nine perfectly symmetrical piles of "homogenous found materials."

There was: one pile of cat fur fluff, one pile of wood shavings, one pile of dry cat food, and so on....nine perfectly round, perfectly identical (in size and shape) art piles , surrounding the cat food can in a perfect circle. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, the single goddamndest thing I've ever seen. Eddie trotted up to meet us as we entered, and led us to his masterwork, looking back every two seconds to make sure we were following him. When we approached it,  he stood there with an attitude that said, quite clearly, "VOILA!"

If I'd been thinking straight, i would have photographed it and then found him a dealer and a gallery. By now, you might be reading, instead of this, a piece about Ed's current retrospective at MOMA.


Fast forward two years. By now, the artist friend (now my husband) and I, were living in Carroll Gardens. We had a lovely floor-through apartment ,with a landing that had an entrance to the apartment on either side: so that it was possible to go out through the kitchen door, on one side, mosey across the landing,  and go straight through to the bedroom door on the other side. One day, Ed , in a spirit of adventure and inquiry, scratched at our kitchen door, so that he could go exploring. Finding himself on the hall landing, he went across it...and scratched on the bedroom door, opposite. We let him in, little suspecting what was to follow.

Eddie stopped short, upon entering the bedroom from a whole new perspective, and then his whole orange self, stiffened in astonishment. 
"Hey!" his attitude said, very clearly ."You know what?? I have ANOTHER apartment, exactly like THIS one! Then he looked at us. "And you guys look just like those OTHER people I know! My OTHER servants! This is AMAZING!!" 

He walked around the entire apartment, his tail a quivering question mark of dazzled discovery. He couldn't believe it. Here he was, only three years old, and yet ALREADY he owned TWO apartments in a pretty nice section of Brooklyn. AND , two more servants. This was GREAT!
Ed walked up to the kitchen door (which I'd closed) and scratched to be let out, then, did the same drill: walked across the landing 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 ? Two MORE servants! Making a total of six! In a nice section of Brooklyn! God DAMN! And then he made the same inspection as before, with the same quivering, question mark tail....

He was impressed. Self-impressed. Only three years old, and yet, he had accomplished SO MUCH. "What a genius i am," one could hear him thinking. It was almost audible. What was more than audible, was his purring, He sounded like a bilge pump. on steroids.

Since it was a Sunday afternoon with not much else going 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. Each time, he repeated his tour of triumphant inspection. Each time, you could see him mentally trying to keep track of how many servants he had NOW. 18 apartments. 36 servants. And a market value of, oh...22 million? 24? That's 40 MILLION cans of Little Friskies! [Cat currency is a wee bit different than human's. Their values are much more specific.]

 At the end of it all, Eddie turned around three times in a circle, curled up, and went to sleep...for sixteen hours. 

Hey, real estate mogulhood is TIRING!

He was a happy landlord. And, to be fair...he only raised the rent once...the day he decided that he needed a can and a HALF of Friskies, a day. But we scrimped and saved, and made do...and somehow? We managed.


The day we moved into  the aforementioned apartment on President Street, I was piling up boxes, Adam was haggling with the movers,  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 I was in, and hid under the couch. I couldn't understand where this strange black cat had come from. -And where was Ed? But 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 then got drenched in an avalanche of hundred year old cinders. 

A new identity: Master of Disguises. Cat of Mystery. Politically incorrect user of blackface. Blackcatface. Eddie fearlessly broke taboos. Of course the last taboo is a taboo because it's just a stupid thing to do, but Ed cared not. -I'm surprised he didn't wind up headlining in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, frankly.


For ten years, Eddie Sebastian, Private Eye,  had a performance art ritual that was as ironclad as it was baffling: he did what we called "The Work." 

It started one night not long after we were married. At 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 of Napoleon,  in the kitchen, honey!"

 Adam 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. His golden eyes were wide with completely spurious innocence. 

"Nothing to see HERE," he intimated. "And 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 poledance.
"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 hus'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 staed overnight i the study. In the moening, Pete got up and I found himsearching throught 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 diriible last night." He looked defiant." I know that sounds crazy.But it was an inexplicable yet very specific noise."
"Oh, THAT," I said, releived. "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 parols the hallway here twice a day, and greets visitors by officiously showing them the many amenities of the uilding, 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 challeneges 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 hecan 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 openin. 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 ptch 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 soe four ears ago. Except one night, when my friend Jennifer stayed over, a longtime Pretty Lady friend and admirerer or Ed's.
As I was making coffe 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 tie 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 Streisnad, like he great masters before him, he always had one last tirck 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.

love from me and eddie
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