If you’ve seen this column before, you know what it’s about. If you haven’t, you’ll figure it out quickly. So I’m just going to get right to it because life as it unfolds is often patently obvious in its meaning and intent…
Remember: people and the world are more beautiful, odd, and interesting than you think, you just have to stop and look long enough to notice.
My fuzzy espionage friend Mikazuki and I are pleased to present you with this brief visual guide illustrating The Four Stages of Kitty-Induced Aggravation, as established by famous Swiss animal behaviorists in the 1960s. However, be advised this is for educational purposes only. My cat is a professional. Please don’t try this at home…
Stage 1, Denial: “Mika, you son of a bitch, DO NOT even think about it!”
Stage 2, Anger: “Goddamn it, Mika, get the FUCK down from there!!”
Stage 3, Bargaining: “Mika-chan, please don’t do that. Mika, please come down. Mika-chan?”
Stage 4, Acceptance: “Jesus Christ, he did it. I’m impressed. Now I need the step ladder.”
Lacking both the energy and ambition on Christmas Eve to present to you photographs and text covering my usual range of topics, I’ve decided to just show you some pictures of my cats. My insane, hyper-kinetic, fuzzy-beautiful fucking cats. I figure no matter where you are as a Scholars and Rogues reader on the American political spectrum, my 10-month-old cats will cause no offense and might even make you smile.
See, 2017 has been a rather shitty year for me. Two big reasons why are my wife was hospitalized in January, then we lost our beloved cat Indy on Valentine’s Day. Being the life-long cat ladies that we are, my wife and I intensely felt how empty both our lives and our house were after Indy. So even though we both felt emotionally that it was too soon after his death and the deep grief it caused to have new cats, we adopted two eight-week-old kittens on April 1st from some very nice folks up near Sacramento.
And these are they, Kuro and Mika, brothers from the same litter, furry brigands who chew on everything, routinely beat the shit out of each other, and haven’t a mean bone in their bodies even though the are ruthlessly lethal to the toy mice (with the rattling bits inside) that I keep finding under every goddamned piece of heavy furniture in our house. So it goes living with with the aggravating grace of the feline species…
Mika, on the left, has white feet and a distinctive crescent moon patch on his neck. Kuro, on the right, is entirely jet black. They’re thrilled to meet you, as you can see.
Mika also has white areas on his chest and belly. And he likes to leap over our bathroom door.
They both like boxes, but Kuro is particularly fond of them.
Kuro also likes to chew on shit, in this case my cigarette lighter.
Mika loves toys, but wasn’t fast enough to eviscerate this pink one when I dropped it for him.
This will be their first Christmas with us, or with anyone. They’re not entirely clear on that concept.
Extremes enrich an abundant life…
In my chosen profession there are extremes which exist outside of me and are mine (or yours) to take or leave. The world is ugly, and the world is beautiful, and I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself a photojournalist if I wasn’t willing to embrace how wonderful and horrible the world can be. You got to love the hate and hate the love, so to speak.
Scholars & Rogues has given me a forum to show you, our faithful readers, the weird bits of pathos, promise, and pain that I encounter as I wander in and around San Francisco, California and its suburbs. I do this to show you that we are not just a collective of progressive thinkers, critics, and college professors. We are also no strangers to the street. We have been in, and sometimes slept in, the gutters and found within ourselves the strength to take a realistic but also an humane and compassionate view of American life and how our country fits into the world.
So on the tenth anniversary of Scholars & Rogues, I want to make you feel good. And I want to make you feel bad. And I want to give you hope. Because that’s what life does to all of us on a regular basis. And to start here’s my kitten Kuro-chan grooming himself at my house in Brisbane, California…
Then we have a junkie fumbling with a meth needle on 16th Street and Potrero in San Francisco…
And here’s a dog from my neighborhood named Babaloo showing a bit of pink steel…
Finally, here’s Steven, a manic street kid who treated me with grace and humor while we hung out behind a gas station on Patterson Street in San Francisco…
This is our lives, all of us. We all have to understand that we live in an uncomfortable zone encompassing the kitten, the junkie, the dog, and Steven. It’s a place stuck in between soft kitty fur and the used needle on the sidewalk. You don’t get to choose whether you’re in this paradigm or not. You’re in it.
All we at Scholars & Rogues can do is try to draw you in and make you a willing part of it all. We owe you that. As human beings and journalists, we owe you nothing less.
The neighborhood story is the old man who lives in this house is a millionaire widower whose wife died 25 years ago. She was a beautician, the story goes, and the man keeps the old-fashioned hair drying machine on the porch to preserve her memory. He comes out at least once a day and sits in the hair dryer, watching the world go by but never speaking to anyone.
(Hollister, California, April 2016)