Maddancer Blog #1
The Day I Made the Cats Believe the Vacuum Cleaner Was God
It’s like that old joke about cats and dogs. Dogs look at you and go, “Wow, you feed me, pet me, love me…You must be God!” And Cats go, “Wow, you feed me, pet me, love me…I must be God.” So, even though I love cats and fawn over them and do all that kitten bull shit, I still will follow about any path that gets them to do something I want. After all, it’s not like you can train them. In short, when I saw the look in Caper and Sweetpea’s eyes when I turned on the vacuum cleaner, I knew what I had to do. And the truth of it is that the vacuum cleaner did most of the training. Anything that large, that noisy, with a weird shape that breathed – that was something to recon with. So the fear part of the training was easy. At first I didn’t chase them with it. At first I cooed and shut it off and then I realized that they were never going to accept the vacuum cleaner, especially as a regular, weekly part of their lives. So why not do something with it? Use that fear to get the cats to obey.
Fear with no love is not any kind of a real God so if I really wanted the cats to be good – especially if I wanted them to be good when the vacuum cleaner was off, then I needed to show them some love – the warm fuzzy God behind the thunderbolt. So I always push the vacuum cleaner away from the cats to minimize the fear – they were already so fucking scared of the thing that they were about to blow up. And then I would sing happy songs or enthusiastically hum rock anthems while I vacuumed and cooed at the cats. Since I’m pretty damn sure they can’t distinguish between me and the vacuum cleaner when I’m running it, I felt I was showing them the loving side of the cleaner. That really didn’t work, but it did calm them somewhat. Slowly, they got used to the terror of the mighty Hoover being coupled with the warmth of an old David Crosby song. It was slowly working. At night, the vacuum cleaner, not just a huge source of power but also now their sort of mutual friend, sat silent vigil over the litter box less anyone but Dad try to change it (don’t worry about that) Then on Saturday when Mom worked and Dad was off because writers who live very long never work on Saturdays, well, especially Irish writers don’t. On Saturdays the old dirt sucker roared to life sending al the nonhumans to another room. But then I would make some vague cat sounds and sing parts of “Almost Cut My Hair” or “Cowboy Movie” and the cats would begin peaking around the corner.
Now, I’m not certain that the litter box is more orderly or that they leave the dog alone more, but they have been going straight into their room at night without slinking under the sofa or some kind of unbelievable chase down. The reason I have to keep them in the room (my home office by the way – that litter box is just fucking great for the computer) is that they race top speed around the house at night. They’ll pounce on you bed, slam each other into walls, knock the damn curtain rod down and scatter the dog’s dry food bowl all over the kitchen in frenzied play. Since they’re locked up, they do less of that shit, too. And they’re trained. At night Caper begs to go in there and Sweetpea moves as soon as the food hits the bowl – food is another great motivator – so it all kind of works. Course I still have to wedge the door and stick my old electric typewriter in front of the door so they can reach under it and open it. Then I wedge this exercise ball that my wife has yet to blow up since Christmas. My wife works so much that she barely has time to do anything. She’s amazing. And I contribute too. I pay big chunks of bills when I get paid which is often but not regular. So money is sort of always a surprise. So I help out doing dishes and vacuuming, especially on Saturday when she has to work and I can stay home and do chores. And I trained the cats.
Crazy Story #1
So I’m in Vegas working with Oliver Stone on his biography. We’re attending a weeklong conference where students with the 500 top SAT scores have been invited to hear inspirational talks from leaders in politics, business and the arts. While there I met Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, Robert Gates (head of the CIA at the time, now the Secretary of Defense), Richard Sessions (head of the FBI at the time), Kevin Costner, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Barbara Streisand, Bill Gates, Dolly Parton, Tom Selleck, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, a slew of other famous folk and a guy who sold hot dogs outside the Mirage hotel.
I have a ton of stories from these four days. One of them involves meeting Bruce and Demi. It’s Saturday afternoon and the casino in the Mirage is jammed with people. Here come Bruce and Demi strolling through and Oliver says we should go over and say hello. So we walk up. Bruce has his head pretty much shaved for an upcoming role and he is very nice and down to earth saying things like, “I’m gonna change and then see if I can make some dough on one of these crap tables.” A very Bruce Willis type of comment. Demi, on the other hand, is cold and pissed off. She is wearing a black nylon blouse that is totally see-through with nothing underneath and she’s complaining that people keep staring at her. I’m thinking, “You’re a huge movie star, you’re with another huge movie star, it’s Saturday afternoon in a crowded Vegas casino and you’re wearing a see-through blouse…and you’re upset that people are staring at you?”
You gotta forgive celebrities sometimes because they just don’t get much of a clear shot at reality.