All my cats eventually become bookends, prone to occupy opposite chairs or otherwise come together separately; the Catma Sutra cats occasionally take a break from snuggling and chasing to display their talent for symmetry.

I hadn’t listened to that Simon and Garfunkel tune for a while; I’d forgotten how much I liked it, and them. When I was twelve, and popular music all had to rock, roll and “have a beat,” they were the only contemporary singers whose albums I bought. I had to be convinced — a schoolfellow who had been about my only friend since the fourth grade was keen on them right from “Scarborough Fair” onward. She took up the guitar, wanting to make some of the same sounds, and I liked playing with hers so much that I didn’t have much trouble talking my musician father into getting me one of my own. You can see it behind one of the chairs in the picture. I used to sing coffee houses with original material — musically not too bad, I think, though the songs themselves make me wince now.

My friend kept on singing, even cut an album eventually, but long before that she had let me know five different ways that I was no longer cool enough to be more than admitted to her general vicinity. I’ll never quite figure it out — suddenly, one day, she became a political obsessive, prone to badger waiters who didn’t speak English about Union Lettuce, talk about The Struggle, and fret over whether she should try to be a lesbian until the patriarchy was overthrown. After years of practicing chords for hours, sharing favorite books, sleeping over weekend after weekend, swapping our literary juvenilia, I never saw her except in the company of a herd of self-consciously shabby Children Of Privilege preoccupied with the same issues — usually discussing them over a game of Hearts, of all things. Somehow, despite this, she felt called on to lecture me about how I conducted my sex life; it’s amazing how prudish Liberation can make people.

The last time she knocked on my door — about 1978 — I could hear that she was trailing the usual gaggle of world-saving sad sacks in blue jeans and Birkenstocks. I didn’t answer. She left a box of fan fiction that we had once written together on the doorstep.

I heard about the album from an old classmate, years later, and bought it, what the hell. It was neither bad nor good. There was a song of her own composition that mentioned me wistfully, stuffed in between crap about victory for the workers and solidarity with the campesinas. It would have made you pipe your eye, except that she knew damn well where to find me, and I was not the one who had turned into a Pod Person.

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy…

Simon and Garfunkel seem to be singing those lines from an alternate universe. Cats are much better at this kind of thing than humans are.


27 thoughts on “Bookends

  1. The orange cat in the first photo is in the snail/mollusk position. This is also the cinnamon roll position.

        • It is important to be able to identify cat positions and locations. reach down while the cat is in the wrong position and one could get bitten.

          Snail, hen and meatloaf are usually OK. Landmass and island in the sea of carpet are usually safe. Sphinx or lying flat someplace like the top of a book case or on the top of a dresser could be dangerous.

          • These days Azar mostly does the “why aren’t you snibbling me” position. Loki is still a kitten so it doesn’t matter what position he is in – I almost always end up being bitten and “disembowelled”.

      • When I was a kid my favourite Bookends song was Hazy Shade of Winter and I loved how it segued into At the Zoo.

        The Boxer always slays me too, and it actually helps if I don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics. Kind of like that Jose Gonzalez version of Heartbeats I put up the other day. In fact, I think they are kind of similar in how they just carry you along…

        • You can get a general outline of what’s going on in Boxer (enough that I used it as an epigraph in one of my mystery farces, the actual verse about the boxer). But it sets up so many questions about the narrator — and why is the boxer standing in a clearing, of all places? Well, that’s poetry for you.

  2. Another example of cats being more advanced than humans: cats do not wear blue jeans and birkenstocks.

    Oh, and the patriarchy doesn’t care if you become a lesbian. The patriarchy likes watching girl-on-girl action.

    • Cats also do not wear high heels and makeup. I don’t wear bluejeans because they “bite” personal parts of my anatomy in unpleasant ways, but birkenstocks are my shoe of choice.

      Personally, I’m not sure why blue jeans and birkenstocks have become the appropriate snarky way to reference activists, whether sad sacks or not. Those fresh faced do-gooders are partially why we now can breathe the air in LA and also why the south is desegregated not to mention the lack of Apartheit in South Africa. Too bad they didn’t succeed in Arizona, which is why the Glen Canyon is now destroyed.

      But maybe I’m getting too serious for such a lovely Sunday morning. To quote a line from that S & G song The Boxer referenced above: “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. . .”

      • Working to make the world a better place is one thing. Blowing off your lifelong friend because she does not want to put on the uniform, smoke marijuana, badger confused waiters (when you are someone’s guest, yet) and disdain anything that doesn’t “help the oppressed” as a waste of time — quite another thing.

        My home county is still full of people like this. They are the first to go picket over the expulsion of any minority student as racism, say, without checking the facts of the case (I’m thinking of a kid who made a game try at poisoning his teacher’s coffee) and then turn around and merrily vote to raise taxes on people like me because, you know, since I’m not one of the OH-pressed, the fact that I’m knocking myself out to make ends meet doesn’t count. (And I’m not talking about taxes to support housing or human services; I’m talking about a local government that never saw a toy it didn’t want, like $600 K down the drain, so to speak, for a public art project at the SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT that never happened because the artist produced a completely unrealistic proposal and no one had entered a clause about getting our money back.)

        I vote in a blue direction, I ran a crackpot for local office in part because his platform pointed out how complacent the incumbent was on issues like health care and clean energy, but I draw the line at people whose motto is “Eat, Drink And Sleep The Struggle or you’re just one of the piggies.”

          • Just that every cult has a uniform, and B&BJ was the one adopted by that cult — the Do-Gooder Collegiate Children Of Rich Suburban Parents. For variation, denim overalls were permitted. Women were expected to abstain from wearing bras. (I find bralessness distracting and uncomfortable, though my bra of choice is a sports camisole.) No one was to wear clothing that had not been washed until it was frayed and faded, and all attire had to be of such indifferent fit that the wearer looked like an untidy pile of carpets. Meh.

            When your best friend of over a decade kicks you to the curb because she saw the chance to be part of a really cool posse — people that thought it was cute to tell me “When the Revolution comes you’ll be the first to die” — you never want to see anyone dressed in that posse’s uniform again. Did I mention it hurt? It hurt.

          • Dear sled, I am so sorry that your best friend of over a decade treated you so shabbily. I can only imagine the deep wound her actions caused. The comment about the Revolution seems particularly arrogant — and people who say stuff like that think they are witty. Peh. I’ve always wondered how they knew who was going to be first. Somehow, I sort of think that “Come the Revolution”, those folks would be on the front lines and would be more likely to die than those of us who were keeping our heads down and minding our own business.

            I guess I was fortunate to spend most of that decade in an environment that was not really conducive to cultish activities — Fairbanks Alaska. Of course, it could be argued that simply choosing to live in such an extreme environment was sort of on the order of joining a cult. Certainly the DGCCRSP’s were not much in evidence in the Fairbanks area. The environment was just a little too challenging for them. We did have more than our per capita share of tax rebels and secessionists, though.

            Shoot, we were all focused on surviving the cold in the winter and the mosquitos in the summer. I’m afraid in the winter we all rather did look like an untidy pile of carpets due to layering for warmth. Blue jeans did show up on occasion, but denim isn’t very warm. No one wore birkenstocks. In the winter they were too damned cold, and in the summer they did nothing to keep the mosquitos away from your toesies.

            The idea of washing perfectly good clothing until it was almost worn out before we could wear it? No one wanted to spend that much time in the laundromat! And holes and fraying? What a great way to let the mosquitos get at your all too flavorful skin.

            I can see where you are coming from much better now, and I thank you for taking the time to educate me a little more about things that were going on during a time when I was pretty much out of the loop.

          • I think what they did was self-consciously buy the cruddiest and most shapeless garments in the Thrift Store. The whole thing was just a mirror form of the cliqueishness that involves tennis lessons at the Country Club or clothes from the “right shops.”

            I didn’t have brilliant luck with the girl friends of my youth. Two played that “I know cooler people than you now” hand, and the third locked herself [deliberately] in the garage with the car running while I was away at college. No one bothered to call me about it until she’d been buried for a month. In case anyone ever wonders why I’m a cantankerous, unforgiving old bitch.

          • On their own separate from each other, for most of the public, blue jeans and birkenstocks are innocuous. Combined, they are fugly.

            And birkenstocks, while reportedly the most comfy thing ever, give the impression that the most the wearer is going to do that day is hit the bong, listen to some Dead, and maybe play some Ultimate Frisbee. But maybe that’s just me.

          • Birks are comfy if you have the right feet. If you don’t (I don’t, though my father did, as it happens) and you wear them as a statement of some kind, clumping around ready to topple over backward, you just look like a dork; I speak as a witness.

            I have an eightysomething client who suffers miserably from 99 different kinds of musculoskeletal pain, and twenty years ago when I first knew her, she had a pair of gold lame Birks that she wore with formal dresses. “No one looks at your feet anyway and goddammit without these I HURT,” she said. I say yeha. But as a badge of counterculture coolness, they were silly.

  3. How strange … the Amazon and I were sitting on the couch this morning with one cat on each armrest, and she remarked in her laconic way: “Bookends.” I immediately thought of the Simon and Garfunkel song.

  4. I can’t think of many things that cats don’t do better than humans, frankly. Except open tins. 😉

    I’ve only been ‘cut out’ by one female friend, luckily. We were close at university and for about a year afterwards, then we had a misunderstanding over her ex-boyfriend and that was it. Weird.

    I wonder if Simon and Garfunkel actually will sit on a park bench together when they’re seventy?…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s