CAT PEOPLE

I don’t have many dreams or desires these days. Maybe capturing a good photo, getting to hang out with family, making it through the day without the negative bizarre touching me… you know, those kind of huge aspirations. But years ago, I had really big ideas, like going to Peru and experiencing Machu Picchu or to Tibet and riding a Yak to some mystic temple in the Himalayas.

Back then, I was reading a lot of books on spiritual enlightenment, Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, and doing the usual truth-seeking journey. I remember reading that one really didn’t have to go to a specific physical place, like some temple on the other side of the world to find themselves. I read that the journey can be taken from within at any physical location.

Sure, it’s good to change your place to change yourself. But if everything is always changing and no time or place is ever exactly the same twice, then is not anyplace new each time you visit it?

So, yesterday, I packed up my camera and got out early, and without discourse went to the same old place that I knew would be new again… I just didn’t know how.

It was a comfortable 78 degrees and not too humid at the Public Market yesterday. It was around 8am and the place was filled with early birds walking dogs, strolling the streets chatting with the vendors before the day got hot and busy. As we all strolled and shopped, strangers would talk to strangers.

I nodded to other camera wearing non-tourists and they nodded at me. One strange lady came up to me and said, “Did you get a picture of that lady walking her cat?” I replied, “walking a cat? You can’t walk a cat!” I looked all around for that lady and her cat, but couldn’t find her.

It was strange the way that lady came up to me. I thought it might have been a sign or some kind of foreshadowing to the day ahead. Feeling most comfortable, I strolled with the rest of the crowd and visited my favorite orchid stand… again.

As I looked out of myself from this unusually comfortable place, it seemed that everyone around me was smiling and happy. Two loving ladies with their new puppy were getting lots of attention from the crowd. I asked the more pierced of the two to hold the puppy up and I grabbed one.

On the other end of the market, cold, fresh orange juice was just beginning to sweat from being pulled out of the cooler. A whole box of Orange Juice dripping on itself, looked refreshing to me.

The light was still low at the beginning of the day at the huge vegetable stand by the back of the market. As the sunlight snuck in at a dramatic early morning angle across the top of the green peppers, I shot them, also sweating from its first cool exposure to the warm humidity.

Typically, the market has the most amazing musicians. Most of the time it’s this pair of Flamenco Guitarists that are just so extraordinary that you forget you’re there to shop for vegetables. Yesterday, there was a mystical violinist playing an electric violin. The sound was so magical that I had to shoot him in mid-stroke, spraying the rosin off his bow.

Sweet crying strings that produced a sound that touched everyone around, down deep. I looked around at the other people listening and they all stopped what they were doing to touch souls with this guy.

The usual lady had her usual flowers out for sale. Only this early in the morning the light had just been born and made everything around it look like it had just woken up.

Behind the flower stand, a group of about ten ladies were sort of doing some yoga. They had their mats and their square blocks but the androgynous leader just had her headset, her smile and her well-defined arms. She, the leader, was telling the others to move their arms around like a tree moves its branches around. “Imagine you’re a tree….” she was saying.

At the end of the market I turned around and walked back through. I passed this booth with no one in it, selling something I couldn’t remember. This kid was sitting in a chair and looked strangely content. I grabbed a shot of him. I think it was a him…but it could have been a her. Odd how I was having trouble telling the difference on this morning.

Anyway, as I was cleaning up this picture to share with you, I just so enjoyed looking at this kid’s face. I don’t know what it is about him or her… but I just liked the shot so much.

I passed the usual parade of pets on the way back to the car. Perhaps this is the kind of dog I would have seen in the Himalayas had I ever gone. It’s unlikely to see in such a hot place as Sarasota, but there he was. Clearly he had just come back from a breakfast involving the sloppy eating of lobster and forgot to take his bib off.

I passed a few homeless folks on the way back to the car. One of them was shouting “take my picture – take my picture” and I did. The next second, he started shouting, “I hate getting my picture taken…” I guess schizophrenia is common in homeless people. As I walked away, he continued to shout, “I’m homeless you know, I’m homeless.”

Just about to the car, I passed a man cleaning out the debris from a fountain at a public office building. He was a worker for the city  just doing his job. Behind him was a man asleep on the sidewalk against the building. It was a strange scene to me as if the man cleaning the fountain wasn’t bothered by the sleeping man and the sleeping man didn’t wake from the work being done around him.

“I think I’ll just crawl out of my wheelchair and take a snooze.” Obviously, I had entered the usual weirdness.

Just before leaving the market, I passed a lady at a booth who was encouraging the folks to subscribe to the local paper. I went up to her and asked her if anything new was going on around town, that I could go to and take some pictures at. She just sold the subscriptions and didn’t actually read the paper. But she handed me one to flip through.

As serendipity would have it, I read that there was going to be a huge cat adoption show at one of the arenas in town. That seemed like a great destination for something rare to capture. I thought it odd that another cat topic was put in my face; clearly this was a sign.

Meantime, I had an hour to kill before the show began, so I stopped by this flea market that was around the corner from the arena.

Most of the vendors at this dusty lot next to a church, were very different from those found at the affluent farmers market of downtown Sarasota. There was this one lady selling different flavored vapors for her smokeless cigarette. Did you know that instead of smoking, they call it vaping?!

Among the classic knife displays, old children’s toys and out-of-date records, CDs and DVDs… there was this one pick-up truck filled with these gorgeous bird houses. Both the guys selling them were kind of toothless as they sat in chairs in the bed of their truck, looking out on their wealth of wares.

One of the guy’s has a sister who lives in the mountains of Kentucky and makes these birdhouses for a living. Supposedly, the trade is passed down from generation to generation and is considered one of the most desirable crafts to come out of those back hills. When I asked him if she sells them on the internet, he replied, “…no sir. We don’t want anyone steal’n our designs.”

These amazing little bird homes were selling for $40.

It was time to head over to the Cat Show…or Adoption Event… or what ever it was. But the doors had not quite open yet. So I wandered around outside the arena till it was time to enter.

Next door to the cat thing, was obviously a motorcycle riding class going on. I recognized it because I had attended a few during my early days as a biker. It was part of my transformation from Chubby Long Island Jew to Smelly Crotched Biker before I turned into Global Ad Guy. It was a phase I went through years ago. But being Jewish, I took the class twice, just to make sure it stuck.

It was good nostalgia to see those guys out there. Folks wanting to become bikers. Now there’s a blog topic.

Finally it was time to enter the Cat Adoption Rescue Mission Event. Now this part of the story has lot’s of little nuances to it. I watched the crowd line up to enter the event. All of them were cat people. I’ve had cats in the past. Reluctantly, but they chose me so I endured them for the time I had them, but basically I am allergic to cats, so I kind of don’t prefer them.

I once had a friend who was allergic to peanuts. She couldn’t even walk into a restaurant that cooked with peanut oil because she smelled it in the air and would go into anaphylactic shock. Well, basically, it’s the same with me. I only had a limited amount of time in the cat place before my lungs would close, my eyes would swell and I’d want to rip my skin off from the itching.

As we waited for the doors to open, a police officer pulled up. I caught her at the back of her patrol car with the trunk open, as she was donning all her high-security gear, like Batman would be filling up his bat belt. Anyway, I couldn’t help but take advantage of the opportunity. She was late 40s, bone skinny, champagne colored short hair, squinty eyes wearing stunning black running shoes jutting out under too high pant cuffs.

“Officer. Are we expecting some violence here at the cat show?” I asked. She replied, “Yeah… we got a tip that there was a pack of dogs on the way over.” I busted out hysterically laughing. I continued my tongue-in-cheek interview. “So, do you have special training or unique weapons to handle the crowd in the event that some law enforcement is needed?” She replied, “yep, I got my water bottle right here. I’ll be spraying the perps as needed.”

The doors finally opened as it was time to enter. I and the cat people stuffed into the feline palace like it was a sale at Best Buys. The managers of the show saw my camera and I was immediately vetted out. After an intense interrogation with 4 levels of cat show management, they agreed to let me shoot there because I told them I had a blog that covered the events around Sarasota, among other things.

They gave me a special ASPCA bracelet to alert the other staff that I was “one of them” and cut me loose among the cat people. I didn’t have much time because I could feel my eyes starting to swell from just rubbing elbows with the crowd walking through the door. Most of the shots I took at the show, were of cats in cages, but I managed to get a few decent notables.

When you think about cats, you can think about their reputation for being aloof, untrainable and not like dogs. Or, you can think about how the Egyptians worshiped them, how no satanic cult would be complete without its familiars and the common belief that a cat picks you, not the other way around.

Even the folks at the show all agreed that no cat has an owner, that the cat owns the people. I had trouble looking at this shot below because even though it’s just a static image, I could feel something scary reach into my eyeballs and squeeze my heart, like a cat would play with a ball of yarn.

In contrast, this sleepy pussy was an easy one to shoot and an enjoyable one to view.

And no cat array would be complete without the requisite cleaning picture.

There was a famous veterinarian there, who had written a book for people whose cats had passed away. Just a small device to help with the grieving process. I snapped lots of shots all over the show, including her and her book, but the jewelry she wore was really worth getting one up close for.

Within a short period of time, I started to wheeze and I had trouble pressing my now-fat-eye against the viewfinder and figured I’d leave before they had to carry me out. And that would be a CATastrophe!

On the way out I caught a few fine-looking faces. Though I’ve always been a fan of freckles, beautifully balanced and perfectly paired lips are pretty rare. This woman was too pretty to be the usual cat lady, so I figured she was obviously a witch.

There were lots of volunteers around the show and most of them had a certain kind of appearance.  You know the look … like the appearance you would expect, more stereotypical of reclusive cat ladies to have.  (not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

Unlike dog people, who resemble their dogs, most of the people at the show, did not resemble the sleek sexy beauty of the cat. Except for this silent lady, who I imagined said, “thank you for coming” with her eyes, as I ran out of the show coughing, scratching and itching.

As I left the arena, there was an odd smell in the air. I quickly turned to see that one of the cigarette towers was on fire. Behind the cigarette tower were two ladies continuing to smoke, not vape, their cigarettes. They were as you would imagine them, cat people.

Deep into their draws, I interrupted, “… looks like you guys are trying to burn the place down!” One of them, not urgently, like a cat, walked over to the potential explosion of flames with their water bottle and poured a trickle down the same tiny hole that they had been inserting their smoldering butts. “What ever happened to normal ashtrays?” one of the raspy voiced ladies said.

I felt lucky cause I thought it was just a good photo-op.

I finally left the cat show, thinking about all the poor kitties. I thought about how different dog people are from cat people. It’s like people from a different world. Anyway, I decided to see the new Borne Identity movie and wanted to grab a little lunch before the show.

A quick stop at Panera near the theater served up this lovely lady to take my order for Strawberry, Poppy Seed, Chicken Salad. I took some extra time ordering because even though she was young, her shirt was opened a bit too much and she leaned over to type my order into the cash register and ended up revealing herself a bit. Now I was not thinking about cats anymore.

I picked up my salad at the end of the counter and took a table located in the middle of the restaurant where I could get a good view of the lovely lumped lady, as I ate my salad and stroked my camera. I sat there and thought about the logic of the restaurant manager for hiring this woman and maybe suggesting she reveal herself in the most appetizing way.

It’s kind of a good strategy. Lots of lonely chubby guys would want to return to the register again and again to order more and more bread, cookies and bread from her, just to keep getting their perverse little peek. I guess it’s the same with the low-cut blouse wearing tellers at the bank counter, advertising to deviant depositors groping for their frugal fondling view.

Anyway, I ate my salad and left the restaurant. I went to the movie, confirmed that it was as the reviews had said, watched it to the end and left.

I returned home to Page, my faithful pup and took her for a long walk. You can’t really take a cat for a walk.

5 thoughts on “CAT PEOPLE

  1. I had some witty things in mind to say, and then…CATS! Those dreamy shots of the solid grey cat knocked everything else out of my mind.
    Gorgeous words, magnificent visual tour, and CATS! Love the puppy and the Newfie, too. Now I’m thinking about a Newfie in a bib eating lobster. I guess there are worse ways to start my day.

G'head. Say it.

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