18 March 2012

Did you know that cats, the ones who aren’t agnostics anyway, have a patron saint?

She is Gertrude de Nivelles and she is also the patron of gardeners.

Yesterday 17 March was her Feastday. You have to wonder if Santa Gertrudis cattle are named for her and, you know, they probably are.

Gertrude who was born in 626 of our era is often invoked against rats and mice, particularly field mice, so she is the protector of cats.

In my halcyon days, I often liked to take LSD and study the world around me, particularly cats who were near to hand and always fascinating.

They seem to study me too.

Cats are so well engineered and seem to fit in their life niche better than many, many other creatures. Although they sometimes do suffer from anxiety issues and other health problems (like any other animal) and might need CBD products for cats to help them cope. But overall, cats are good at what they do – being cats.

This cat is Jazzy. He lives in San Anselmo.

We brought Lizzy home when she was a baby and in two days she knew how to go the bathroom, clean herself, climb, no, run, up and down the spiral staircase, things that our eight year old dog still has not learned. She seemed that advanced that we thought she would be able sort her own cat insurance out!

I love dogs and indeed plan to write about them soon, but a cat will run circles around a dog when she isn’t actually jumping circles around him.

Notice that I have unconsciously ascribed a gender to each of these animals.

Women are cats.

Men are dogs. Take that any way you want to.

No stereotyping here.

Big Brother and the Holding Company played in Central Park in the summer of 2003. One of our singers was Chan Marshall.

Chan sometimes calls herself Cat Power.

When she was onstage with us, when we were actually playing Down On Me, Chan held a tape recorder to her ear, listening to Janis Joplin sing Down On Me. This was such a post Modern approach to learning a tune that I have never forgot Chan.

Ernest Hemingway was one of the more famous lovers of polydactyl cats.

He was first given a six-toed cat by a ship’s captain.

As provided in his will, his former home in Key West, Florida currently houses some fifty descendants of his cats. About half of them are polydactyl.

I simply can’t resist a cat, particularly a purring one. They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course. Mark Twain.

Mark Twain was asked: “What is better than a cat?” To which Twain replied: “Two cats!”

Fitting thing for a man named Twain to say.

Motto: Momma loves morals and Papa loves cats. Susy Clemens.

Sir Isaac Newton loved cats. He invented the cat door.

Edgar Allan Poe used cats as symbols of the sinister in several of his stories, although he himself owned and loved cats. He used his tortoiseshell cat “Catarina” as the inspiration for his story ‘The Black Cat’.

T.S. Eliot was a cat lover and he wrote an entire book of poems about cats, that ultimately became a rather well known musical.

Nostradamus (1503 – 1566), the prognosticator of prognosticators, had a cat named Grimalkin, which, with a capital letter or no, is a name used generically for a cat, especially an old one.

Monet loved cats and depicted them in several paintings.

Florence Nightingale owned a large Persian cat named “Bismarck”. She owned more than 60 cats in her lifetime.

Then there’s Kat Patterson who has many feline characteristics.

So does Peggy Pettigrew Stewart, gifted glass artist, here in her natural habitat. Elise and I are going to Arizona to see Peggy this week.

Catalina and Albert.

One of our very early songs in Big Brother and the Holding Company was Faster, Faster, Pussycat, Kill, Kill. I never saw the film, but the tune was fun to play faster and faster.

Robert Crumb said he felt terrible about creating three things because he was ripped off on each of them: 1. the Keep On Truckin’ logo. 2. Fritz the Kat, and 3. the Cheap Thrills album cover because Columbia paid him a small fee and then years later his original drawing was sold at Sotheby’s for some ungodly sum.

I have said so often that Crumb is the greatest artist of our time that I am beginning to believe it.

Why no one in the art world will even try to pronounce “Brueghel” correctly is a bit of a puzzle. Everyone says it as if it were German and written Breugel, but it’s not. It’s Dutch and it is the very devil to pronounce. In Haarlem, I once asked a docent how to pronounce it. I had to ask him three times and I still didn’t get it. It is SOMETHING like Brew hull where the r is said with a flap as in Spanish or Italian and where the h is pronounced as “ch” in German or Scottish. It is definitely not “Broigull,” as Robert Hughes and even Robert Crumb pronounce it.

“Gattare” are Roman women who feed and care for the feral cats of that city.

Edward Gorey and his grimalkin.

Yoko, John and Pepper.

George definitely seems like a cat person.

As does Stan Laurel.

Gato Barbieri was the happening Latin musician when I played with Cubans in New York in the 1970s. Gato is Spanish for “cat,” from Latin “cattus.”

The Classical Latin for “cat” was “felis,” but people in the street said “cattus.” Think of when we say “feline” in English and when we say “cat.”

I once had a cat named Felix, not for “felis,” but for “felix,” happy. Compare Spanish “feliz” and Italian “felice.”

In Greek there was also a learned word for cat (aílouros) and a street word (káttos).

From the word “aílouros,” we get ailurophilia and ailurophbia and you can probably guess what those are. I have a cat who sticks her tongue out just a little bit as this one does. She will leave it there until you call her attention to it.

Ailurophobes are immediately detected by cats who then shower their attention on them… sometimes quite literally.

The poet Martial used the word “catta,” and modern Greeks say “gáta” from Italian “gatta.”

In Catalan, they say “gat.” I think Pablo Picasso may have frequented a café called Quatre Gats (Four Cats) when he was a young man in Barcelona at the turn of the last century.

The English seem to love cats a bit more than the rest of us.

Bowie and Purrie.

Writers like cats, maybe because they are sedentary and soft, or maybe because cats just seem to be wise and comfortable.

I have spent a lifetime drawing and painting cats. I put Mr. O’Reilly in here. He is nothing like that bully on Faux News.

Interspecies love affair, courtesy of my friend Filia Franco.

If you want to draw a kitten, you have to move quickly.

An ailurophile’s bass guitar.

Notice that cats walk on their “fingertips” and that their thumb has migrated up into their inside “forearm” area. You only see four digits in the footprint. Shakespeare called the feline/canine thumb a “dewclaw.”

These thumbs have not migrated yet.

But, hey, they may.

This man loved cats.

Socks also knew his way around the White House.

“I have seven lives. Help me to live at least one of them well.” (I thought they had nine lives.)

Zappa means “hoe” in Italian. No, not that kind of hoe. The other kind of hoe.

I knew this cat well.

Two rather handsome cats.

He assumed the name “Capote” from where I don’t know. It means a big cape or a cloak.

It may even be a top for a convertible.

They visited Minden, Nevada, together.

Drew is a true blue ailurophile.

I love it when cats stick out their arms like this.

Thereby hangs a… oh, you know, a big sweeper.

Cats are as varied in their character and personalities as humans are. Maybe more so.

Some decisive, chiseled.

Others a little softer around the edges.

Ready to go with whatever.

Orange tabbys are always fun.

Love and happiness. (Hey, good idea for a song title.)


Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company