Squeaky Squeakums for U.S. President

As a proud and loyal citizen of America, I have spent the last several months aghast at the train wreck that is the campaign for the 2016 election for President of the United States. It has been both embarrassing and more than a bit terrifying watching a succession of fools and crooks attempting to out-pander each other in pursuit of the office of the Presidency.  The possibility that one of these clowns might very well be elected to the White House is genuinely unsettling.

Therefore, I am proud to present an alternative to these opportunistic fear-mongers, a candidate who possesses strength, wisdom, courage, humility, and bravery in abundance… my cat, Squeaky Squeakums.

Squeaky Squeakums for President

In a year when nearly every candidate on two legs appears to embody the very worst aspects of humanity, let us look to another species entirely, namely Felis catus, the domestic cat.  Squeaky Squeakums is a wonderful representative of this proud and sage breed.  Yes, she sleeps for an average of 15 hours a day, but during her time awake she is a coiled spring, ready to leap upon intruding mice.  So, too, will she pounce at the first sign of trouble to this great nation, to threats both foreign and domestic.  If elected, she vows to serve all species, be they human, cat, or other animals. Yes, including dogs.

Squeaky is no pampered house cat. Born in Salem, MA, young Squeaky was sadly abandoned by her first human on a trip to New York City.  She spent several years living in an overcrowded apartment in the Bronx, competing with seven other cats, two dogs, and a variety of lizards and birds for space & food.  Seven years ago my girlfriend Michele and I rescued Squeaky and brought her into our home, where we have showered her with love & affection.  But she has not forgotten her humble beginnings.  She possesses a great deal of empathy & understanding for all Americans who struggle to make ends meet.

Squeaky also required extensive veterinary care when we first took her in. That experience has convinced her of the crucial roles that health insurance and affordable medical services must play in our society.

But do not let Squeaky’s compassionate side fool you. She also possesses nerves of steel and a fierce determination.  She will stare down any opponents who seek to take advantage of her good nature.

Squeaky stare closeup

There have been some questions raised as to Squeaky’s eligibility to run for President. Let me assure you that these are unfounded.  Certain people have asked if she is at least 35 years old, as specified by the Constitution.  Squeaky is 13 cat years old, which as per the experts at Purina is 68 in human years, definitely making her qualified.  She is also most certainly a natural born citizen, and if requested we will release her long form birth certificate for review.

Perhaps you are asking yourself “How could a cat possible gain the support necessary to be elected President?” I can understand your skepticism.  However, Squeaky has already gained a large and enthusiastic group of supporters, Americans male and female who span all ages, races, religions and cultural backgrounds.  All of her campaign appearances have been attended by large crowds of voters who are eager to hear her message.  In fact, here is a photo of Squeaky being greeted by her numerous supporters at her last campaign rally…

Squeaky campaign rally

If you are dissatisfied with the direction this country has taken, and if you believe that this nation deserves better leadership than it has had in many decades, then pledge your support for Squeaky Squeakums. You can find out more about Squeaky and her message for America on her official Facebook page, Squeaky Squeakums for U.S. President.

Vote for pussy – We’ll all be happy.

This blog post has been brought to you by the Squeaky Squeakums 2016 Super PAC (Pet and Animal Committee).

Squeaky the Stressed-Out Cat

Our cat Squeaky is definitely one of a kind.  I’ve blogged about Squeaky before.  Michele and I took her in when her previous human abruptly decided that he had too many cats.  Since Squeaky wasn’t getting along with the others he wanted to drop her off at a shelter.  That probably would have literally been the death of her.  Squeaky is extremely shy and sensitive, plus she had health problems at the time, so she would probably have been put to sleep.

Michele told me that in her former home all the other cats beat Squeaky up whenever she tried to come out to eat, and so she was often hiding behind a radiator.  She was even too scared to use the litter box, and so she scratched out a hole in the back of a sofa and used that instead.  In the five and a half years since we adopted Squeaky she has definitely come out of her shell, though. She was incredibly frightened when we took her in, but now she is more at ease.  She was incredibly skinny and unhealthy, but now she is round and healthy.  Squeaky seems happy.

Squeaky photographed by Michele Witchipoo

Squeaky photographed by Michele Witchipoo

That said, she is a quirky cat.  Even after being with us for all this time she is still very jittery.  Loud noises cause her to run & hide, her tail completely fluffed up.  Squeaky still doesn’t like tall men standing near her.  I am 6 feet 2 inches, and when she sees me walking towards her she runs away.  She has no problem with me when I am sitting down or lying in bed.  Actually she is very affectionate at these times, and she loves for me to pet her or brush her fur.  But the instant I stand up she bolts.  Michele believes that Squeaky is still traumatized from whatever craziness went on where she used to live.  I think that there must have been a lot of noise & chaos there.

Squeaky sometimes reminds me of the cat Mooch from the comic strip Mutts by Patrick McDonnell.  Like Mooch, Squeaky is a rather idiosyncratic cat who loves to eat.  Reading the strip in the newspaper often brings to mind our own black & white kitty cat.  That’s especially the case when McDonnell does a strip about Mooch’s love of food.

Mutts September 3 2014 by Patrick McDonnell

Mutts comic strip September 3, 2014 by Patrick McDonnell

It must have been because she was starving for all of those years before we adopted her, but Squeaky is obsessed with food.  We normally feed her at 7:00 in the morning.  Well, starting around 5:00 AM she starts meowing incessantly.  She’ll jump on the bed and scratch up the furniture.  She wants food immediately, and she doesn’t want to wait.  When we finally open a can of wet food and feed her, she dives right in.  Nettie also eats at this time, but she likes to pace herself.  She’s a small cat, and has a tiny tummy.  So she’ll have several bites and walk away for a while.  Unfortunately Squeaky will then try to eat out of Nettie’s bowl, and we have to put it on top of the refrigerator until Nettie is ready to eat again.

Around 10:00 AM Squeaky starts meowing for dry food.  We’ll usually give her and Nettie some an hour later.  She’ll devour that right away.  Dinner time for the cats, when they get the rest of the canned food, is at 3:00 PM.  Well, come 1:00 in the afternoon Squeaky will start meowing sadly, pretty much non-stop, circling about in a worried manner.  She really seems to be convinced she isn’t going to get fed.

Of course, every time Michele and I have something to eat, Squeaky must inspect it to see if it’s something she would like.  If it is, she’ll either give us a wide-eyed pleading expression, or she’ll simply try to snatch some of our food with her paw or mouth.  She is incredibly persistent.

This all inspired Michele to draw a cute, funny illustration entitled “Squeaky Loves To Eat.”

Squeaky Loves To Eat by Michele Witchipoo

“Squeaky Loves To Eat” by Michele Witchipoo

Poor Squeaky.  She can get very stressed out sometimes.  This just goes to show that animals can be very much like people.  If an animal experiences trauma when it is young, that can affect them for the rest of their life.  I definitely think that happened to Squeaky.  She still appears to be coping with some of the stuff she went though before we adopted her.  She seems like a very sensitive soul.

Sometimes I will explain Squeaky’s story to people as a cautionary tale, to demonstrate that it is very important for us humans to treat our four-legged friends with kindness.

Having said all this, I do believe Squeaky is now much happier.  She has food and two humans who love her.  She eventually got used to Nettie trying to play with her, and the two cats are now close.  Squeaky also gets to play, something she never could in the past.  Occasionally she will play-fight with her toy mousies.  But much more often she will grab one of Michele’s pencils, pens or markers in her teeth, carry it off while yowling, and then wrestle with it, chasing it about the apartment as it rolls all over the place.  A good chunk of Michele’s art supplies go missing in this manner.  We often find pens under the bed, or buried in the blankets, or hidden under the rug, or in the laundry pile.

I am glad that Michele and I were able to give Squeaky a much better home than she once had.  She is a very affectionate cat.  Despite her sometimes-unconventional behavior, she really does brighten up our lives.

Cats and comic books: Counter Attack by Alisa Harris

This past February  on Kickstarter there was a fundraising campaign that I happily supported.  Ever since then I have been eagerly anticipating the project that was in the works.  Yesterday the completed book finally arrived in the mail: The Collected Counter Attack! by Alisa Harris.

Collected Counter Attack cover

Alisa Harris is a Queens-based artist & cartoonist.  Michele and I first met her in May 2011 at the Mini Zine Fest held at Pete’s Candy Store, a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Among the mini-comics that Harris had for sale was Counter Attack, a cute series about her two mischievous cats, Moe and Fidget, that she has been creating since 2005.  Michele and I have two cats of our own, Nettie and Squeaky, and in the last few years I have become a huge cat lover.  I purchased Counter Attack from Harris, and I found it adorable.  (The series is so titled because, as Harris explains “Any cat will tell you: the best position of attack is from the kitchen counter.”)

Collected Counter Attack Moe and Fidget

Harris does a fantastic job investing the illustrated versions of Moe and Fidget with the personalities they posses in real life.  Anyone who has ever had a cat can tell you that felines have very distinctive temperaments.  They can be funny and adorable and mischievous and bossy, often all within the space of a few minutes!  Harris’ ability to capture those qualities, as well as her charming art style, made Counter Attack a big success.  The comics kept selling out and she kept having to re-print them.  That’s when she came up with the idea for a Kickstarter campaign to fund a collected edition of Counter Attack, with brand new material included.

Personally speaking, I believe that mini-comics are a real fount of creativity.  There are many very cool self-published comics out there from numerous talented creators.  That said, I never know how to store or organize them!  So, yeah, since I kept re-reading my copies of Counter Attack, and I also kept misplacing them in my jumbled, disorganized piles of books and comics, a hardcover collection was something that appealed to me.

Collected Counter Attack Alarm Clock

As a cat owner (or perhaps that should be a human who is owned by cats?) I have a lot of identification with the anecdotes and misadventures of Moe and Fidget that Harris illustrates.  I am certain that many humans with feline friends will also find these episodes vary familiar.  After all, what human with a cat has not been woken up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) by a cat who wants their breakfast?  Evidently in Harris’ household, her cat Moe likes to tap her on the head.  In my own case, Nettie will lean over my sleeping face and start poking me in the nose with one of her paws.  If that doesn’t work, and I still refuse to get up, on occasion she will extend one claw and begin prodding the tip of my nose with that, which inevitably works.  Yeah, sometimes Nettie can certainly be bratty!

Collected Counter Attack Well Trained

Cats also like to sharpen their claws.  I understand that this is a natural habit they engage in.  That’s why most people purchase a scratching post for their cats, so that their personal property will not get shredded.  Michele and I got one for Nettie and Squeaky.  I can count on one hand the times each of them have used it.  Instead they scratch everything else: the bed, the chairs, the sofa, the bookshelves, even my comic books!  And all the while they ignore a perfectly good, practically brand new scratching post!  I see from the pages of Counter Attack that Harris also experiences this phenomenon.

The Collected Counter Attack! is a cute, funny book.  Copies can be ordered through Alissa Harris’ online shop.  Also available is a “fun pack” containing the issues of her series Urban Nomad, which she describes as “Quirky true stories about living in the many boroughs of New York City.”  I recommend purchasing a copy of The Collected Counter Attack!, especially if you love cats.  You will be looking through the pages of the book and constantly saying to yourself “Yep, that’s my cat, too!”

Lil Bub in the Big Apple

Cats are everywhere on the Internet.  Cute cats, funny cats, strange cats, crazy cats.  You even have your celebrity cats, such as Grumpy Cat and Colonel Meow.  And then there is Lil Bub.

For those unfamiliar with Lil Bub, she is a dwarf cat with big eyes, extra toes, no teeth, and a tongue that hangs out of her mouth.  Lil Bub and her human, Mike Bridavsky, are from Bloomington, Indiana.  They travel around the country making appearances to raise money for animal-related charities.  There is actually a documentary about Lil Bub that is going to premier at this year’s Tribecca Film Festival, with a book coming out in the Fall.  Here is one of Lil Bub’s official photos:

Lil Bub official photo

On Tuesday morning, Michele and I took the subway to the East Village.  We had found out that Lil Bub would be visiting Social Tees Animal Rescue from 11 AM to 1 PM that day, and we really wanted to meet her.  After wandering around for a while, we finally located Social Tees at their new location, 325 East 5th Street.  I later remarked that, since we had been trying to find Social Tees in its old spot, we had been “Looking for Bub in all the wrong places.”  Michele booed me very loudly.

When we got there, the first thing I noticed was that there were several cops standing around.  For a second I thought that maybe Lil Bub had actually gotten a police escort.  Nope, it turns out that Social Tees is next to the neighborhood precinct.  According to the owner, the cops pop in to visit the animals all the time.  It was around 10:30, so we the line was luckily pretty short at that point.  As we were waiting over the next half hour, though, it really grew behind us.

A little after 11:00, Social Tees started letting people in, two at a time.  They were accepting donations of cash or animal food.  If we had known, we’d have brought along this bag of food that our two cats, Nettie and Squeaky, are too picky to eat.  I guess we can drop it off some other time.

Michele and I soon got in.  And, wow, Lil Bub was such a cutie!  Plus she was so small.  I mean, I knew she was a dwarf cat, but she really was tiny.  I think Bub was sort of shy & nervous about meeting all of these new people, but she was still very well behaved.  Here is the photo that Michele took of me petting Lil Bub:

Lil Bub and Ben

Michele said that I had such a happy look on my face when I met Lil Bub.  Having Nettie and Squeaky has really turned me into a cat-lover.  As I said afterwards, it was Bub-tastic.

I think we both wished we could have spent more time with Lil Bub.  But it was a long line, and obviously everyone else needed to get their chance to meet her.  We’re hoping that we’ll be able to go see the Lil Bub & Friendz film in the near future.

A Super Bowl 2013 blog from a guy who doesn’t watch football

I’ve never seen the Super Bowl as a big deal, mostly because I’m not all that into football to begin with.  I think most of the blame for that lies in the fact that, no matter how many times people have explained it, I’ve never been able to figure out how the game is played.  Something about each team having a certain number of attempts to advance the ball across the field a certain number of yards, and at the end they need to score a touchdown, or at least a field goal.  Is that right?  I dunno.

I was going to just sit Super Bowl XLVII out this year.  But a cool local bar here in Queens, Gottscheer Hall, was having their regular Super Bowl party, complete with free buffet.  So Michele and I decided to go to that.

But first on Sunday afternoon, we sat down to watch the two hour Puppy Bowl IX on Animal Planet.  That’s the cute parody of the game which sees a bunch of puppies bouncing around a miniature football stadium, playing with each other and squeaky toys.  They even have a halftime show with cute, cuddly kittens.  It is, as you can imagine, absolutely adorable.  It’s also in a good cause, because all of the dogs and cats who appear on the show each year are rescued from animal shelters.  After the filming is done, they are all adopted out to people who want pets.  Apparently the show also helps raise awareness in animal adoptions, because there is a spike in rescues afterwards each year as viewers take in cats & dogs from their local shelters.

Puppy Bowl IX

By the time we arrived at Gottscheer Hall, the second quarter of the Super Bowl was already well underway.  Which meant, oh joy, we were in plenty of time to catch the halftime show with Beyonce.  I’ve never been a fan of her, to say the least, so this gave me ample opportunity to rag out on her, much to Michele’s amusement.  Look, if you can’t be bothered to sing live for the freaking President of the United States, who will you perform for?  Just as she was lip synching at Barack Obama’s inauguration, so too I expect she was doing much the same for her Super Bowl “performance.”

By the time the third quarter started up, the Ravens were well ahead, and it looked like the 49ers were going to get creamed, especially after Jacoby Jones scored a 108-yard touchdown.  Heck, I don’t even follow football, and even I was impressed by that.  Anyway, I wasn’t rooting for either team, but it’s just a much more interesting game to watch when the score is closer.  Baltimore was ahead 28 to 6 just a few minutes into the second half when, whoops, there was a power outage at the stadium.  It lasted over half an hour, and by the time all the lights were back up, it appeared that the Ravens had totally lost their momentum.  Next thing you know, the score was 34 to 29, with Baltimore barely clinging on to a slim lead in the fourth quarter.  It actually made for a riveting final few moments, because it looked like at any minute San Francisco was going to take the lead.  But the Ravens pulled through.  All in all, it was a pretty entertaining game, even for a football-illiterate viewer such as myself.

Oh, yes, then there were the commercials.  What can I say about them?  I know: they sucked!  Yipes, what an awful collection of garbage.  Companies actually paid millions of dollars to air this crap.  And did I actually see a commercial being broadcast for the Church of Scientology?  What’s next, the Vatican buying air time during the MLB playoffs?  What a world.

Oh, well, come hell or high water, hopefully next year we’ll have Puppy Bowl once again.

Holiday daze

So, another year comes to an end.  I would be lying if I didn’t say I would be happy to see 2012 pass by.  The past twelve months have had so many personal highs and lows, a total rollercoaster.  I’m looking forward to 2013.  Hopefully it’ll be a better year, and I’ll be a better person, as well.

In any case, the last week has been pretty good.  Michele and I invited her parents over for dinner on Christmas Eve.  Michele is one hell of a cook.  This year she made a turkey, stuffing, homemade mashed potatoes, and several vegetables.  It was a really good meal.  The cats went totally crazy, of course!  Squeaky and Nettie love their turkey.  Squeaky even ended up jumping on the kitchen counter in an attempt to get at the turkey before Michele had even had the opportunity to cook it yet!  Anyway, there were plenty of leftovers, so the cats had a chance to gobble down plenty of turkey.  We also gave a few pieces to the turtle.  Yes, Meeshee Gamera refuses to eat vegetables, but she loves poultry.  We gave some food to Michele’s parents to take home.  From what Michele tells me, when they got home, Little Ginger the kitten went nuts when they fed her some turkey.

Michele's delicious turkey

Michele’s delicious turkey

Finally, a few days later, there was only a little bit left.  After I threw out the carcass, I made the mistake of leaving the remaining turkey on a plate by the stove, planning to give it to the turtle the next day.  Well, when I woke up the next morning, it was all gone, except for the wish bone.  Michele and I were looking at each other, puzzled.  “Did you eat it?”  “No, I didn’t, did you eat it?”  Finally it dawned on us that in the middle of the night one of the cats must have jumped up and taken it!

Between the cold weather and the turkey rendering us semi-comatose, we ended up watching a lot of television.  When Michele’s parents came over for dinner, I turned on Animal Planet for the Too Cute marathon.  That show features oodles and oodles of kittens and puppies.  I think I overdosed on adorable.  Then Michele put the Laurel and Hardy film Babes in Toyland aka March of the Wooden Soldiers on the DVD player.

Christmas morning was pretty much dominated by our yearly tradition of watching the 24 hour marathon of A Christmas Story on TBS.  Somehow, we never end up viewing the movie from beginning to end.  Instead, we catch 15 minutes here, a half hour there, and by the end of the day, when you add up all the bits & pieces, we’ve seen the entire movie at least once.  That really is a hysterical film.  As with so many other great cult classics, it apparently did poorly in the theaters, only to find new life on home video and television.

Other viewing material that day was the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode of Santa Claus, a truly bizarre 1959 Mexican movie which features the war between St. Nick and the Devil.  Yes, really!  It is a strange, strange film.  To quote Mike & the Bots, “This is good old fashioned nightmare fuel!”  Then it was time for this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special.  It was pretty good, albeit uneven.  I may review “The Snowmen” on this blog in the near future.

Another show on Animal Planet that I’ve gotten into recently is Pit Bulls & Parolees.  I really like that one.  I think pit bulls are misunderstood.  If you treat them kindly and train them properly, they really can end up being very sweet, loyal dogs.  Another reason I like the show is that it gives people who have been to prison a second chance.  Maybe I’m too sappy, but I honestly believe that there are some people who have made mistakes, but who now genuinely want to turn their lives around.  I honestly feel that they should be given that opportunity.

I think the cats have been happy to have us home, since they’ve been leaping onto the couch to watch TV with us.  Nettie has been sleeping in my lap.  At one point Michele was relaxing on the couch under the blanket, and, as can be seen below, Squeaky curled up on top of her head.  I think she was actually very comfortable there.

Michele and Squeaky

Michele and Squeaky

In the last few days, Michele has gotten a nostalgic craving for that late 1970s series The Gong Show, hosted by Chuck Barris.  She’s been watching all of these clips of it on YouTube.  I’ve never actually seen the original version of The Gong Show before.  I saw a few episodes of the 1980s revival, which never impressed me, so I couldn’t understand what the big deal was.  But Michele pretty much forced me to watch those clips of the original incarnation and, yeah, it is a million times better.  I have to agree with her, the people involved in making the show must have been on some serious drugs!  Of course, while we were browsing through all these old television clips, we happened to learn that a serial killer was once a contestant on The Dating Game.  Oh, wow, truth really is stranger than fiction.  I’m surprised that this never inspired an episode of Criminal Minds.

So now it’s New Years Eve.  I have no plans yet.  Since I quit drinking, it just feels really weird hanging out at bars or parties with people who are getting smashed.  A couple of nights ago, we were at The Cobra Club in Bushwick again, hanging out with some of Michele’s friends.  It was fun, yeah, but after a couple of hours I just started to get edgy, being around all that booze.  And, y’know, if you aren’t drinking, bars are kinda boring.  I don’t know, maybe I just overthink these things.  Anyway, I’m not sure what I’m going to end up doing tonight.  Perhaps I’ll hang out with Michele for a little while and then call it an early night, catch the Twilight Zone marathon or something.  We shall see.

In any case, I hope everyone has a wonderful 2013.  See you next year.

Little Ginger the rescued kitten

My girlfriend’s parents used to have three cats who lived with them: Tabitha, Champ and Leo.  I never met Tabitha, because she died right before Michele and I started dating.  But according to Michele, Tabitha was really close to her, as well as a cat with attitude.  “She would have put you in your place,” Michele likes to tell me.  Four years later, Michele still misses her.

So for the last four years Leo and Champ were still with my girlfriend’s parents, keeping them company.  I met both feline friends on several occasions, when Michele and I went to visit her parents.  The cats seemed really sweet.  Even though we had two cats of our own, I grew to enjoy our visits to there, because I would get to see Leo and Champ.  I especially like Champ.  I was told she had been the runt of her litter, but she had survived, and grew up to be a very affectionate cat.

Unfortunately, last winter Leo passed away from old age, and this spring Champ followed him.  Michele’s mother May is a very sweet woman.  She had been very close to both cats, and missed them both terribly.  Even though May claimed she was too old to take in another cat, I could tell she really would have liked another one to care for.

Late in October, only a couple of days before Hurricane Sandy came barreling through New York City, Michele’s father found a tiny little kitten abandoned in a garage in Queens.  The poor thing was all alone.  He brought it home to his wife as a present, because he knew how much she missed Tabitha, Champ, and Leo.  Cleaning up the cat, May discovered it was a girl.  The cat was an orange tabby, so she named her Ginger.

Ginger in early November

Ginger in early November

It seems certain that Michele’s father saved little Ginger’s life, because I doubt she would have been able to survive the hurricane all alone, living in a cold garage.  May started nursing Ginger back to health.  About a week after the storm, Michele and I went to visit her parents.  We met Ginger for the first time.  She was such a tiny little thing, and was constantly clinging to May.  Michele and I both had an opportunity to hold Ginger.  She really was affectionate.

About a month later, Michele and I went back to her parents’ place for Thanksgiving.  Ginger had been all cleaned up by May, and had started to grow.  Ginger really looked adorable.  She was playful, and at every opportunity was chowing down on leftover Turkey.

Ginger on Thankgsiving Day

Ginger on Thankgsiving Day

The last time Michele spoke to her mother on the phone, she heard that Ginger was still growing, continuing to get healthy, running around the apartment and playing with May.  She seems like a very sweet cat, and I hope she continues to get well & grow.  It’s obvious that May fell in love with Ginger at first sight.  I know she is going to do everything she can to give Ginger a good home.  I’m certainly looking forward to seeing that adorable kitty again.

(Photos of Little Ginger by Michele Witchipoo)