The cat upstairs is friendly — aggressively so — and comes meowing around loudly from time to time. She’s got a long loud meow, more like a crow, her eyes are slightly crossed, her name is Irma. The cat first came around a couple of years ago, wandered down from the flat upstairs that has a constant flow of tenants coming and going. She wasn’t always meowing, however. If I opened a door on a warm day, I’d not be surprised to look up from my desk and see the cat sneaking around my apartment, sniffing extension cords, rubbing up against guitars and stacks of papers.
I would shoo her out. I don’t want a cat, nor the fur or anything else she might leave behind. She crept in many times, making it a game we’d play- cat sneaks in, I gently throw her out. One day as I was leaving, I found her perched on the back of a couch, looking out the window. I put her out and two minutes later she was right back in the same spot, napping. Game over. The door stayed closed.
As a kid, we had a cat. We picked Sparky out of a litter one July 4th, he had seven toes per paw and was never neutered. I played with him a lot, he’d go out and tangle with a raccoon, limp home and I’d pick at his scabs and fleas for weeks. I’d rough-handle him, he’d bite me; it was all in the loving. I probably abused the poor cat, but it never got ugly. He’s buried in the farmer’s yard a quarter mile from our house; he got into something he couldn’t walk home from. I was shocked and so sad when the farmer kids told me after we figured out it was my cat.
This cat, she is a stranger. The cat-stranger roams through my house, appears to want to stay, makes herself at home. Does she creep in silently because she knows she’s not supposed to be here, and does her owner know? Is mine the only house she has visited? I like her, I get closer for petting, she enjoys it briefly, then hisses. I back off, mistrusting her intentions and fear I’ll be hurt. I’ve been told never to trust a crosseyed cat.
My electric toothbrush was on the fritz; it would oscillate on its own, playing a two bar phrase, “Bzzt. Bzzt-bzzt.” I was in the shower when it started doing this. The cat showed up outside my bathroom window, crying away, and I responded, “Oh, feline...what do you want?” but pronouncing it fay-LEEN in the way I’d once heard it said; this variation has stuck forever. Soon I was in a call-and-response with the cat, showering, and all the while the toothbrush was acting as a drum machine. Imagine the video.
The recording started with a scratch demo as a placeholder, but when I heard that first bloom of drum crash at the entry, I was on my way, piling on overdubs. I sampled an acoustic guitar played with a violin bow, recorded the broken toothbrush and ran it through an envelope filter for that cute “bweep-bweep” sound (along with the cat, who wouldn’t hush).
The last time I saw the cat in my house, I’d just returned after being away overnight. She’d gotten in undetected but then was locked inside for a whole day and night. She has not set foot in my place since.
Recorded at Tape Vault at Hyde St. CvS - vocals and instruments; Michael Israel - Drums.