Did I mention this fucking event was at 10:30 in the morning on SATURDAY?? Just so you know, I have far more important things to do at such an early hour, such as... oh, I don't know... being bailed out of jail. Unfortunately I failed to wind up in jail this particular weekend, and so I had ZERO excuses to duck out of this. "Cat Stories II" was held at Joe's Cellar in the NW industrial district, which is actually a pretty great dive bar, filled with bottles and bottles of delicious, dark liquors—liquors I could not touch because of YOUR overly cruel ban on any Discomfort Zone drinking. Therefore I had already been discomforted TWICE, within three minutes of arrival.
I'm not sure why exactly there needed to be a "Cat Stories II"—especially after hearing one of the organizers say, "There are twice as many people here as last time!" There were ten people in the room. (Not counting the three old drunks at the bar loudly arguing over who was the better ball player, Ty Cobb or Hack Wilson.) Believe it or not, I was actually surprised by the lack of Cat Stories participants—there seem to be no end of them at my office, where the employees endlessly drone ON AND ON about how adorable Mr. Meowsers was while vomiting up a stomach full of grass and saliva on their favorite throw pillow.
I smiled inwardly, thinking that since there wouldn't be many people to tell stories, I could possibly be outta there in under 15 minutes... and back to squirting cirrhosis into my liver within 30. What I didn't bank on was THE BAND. There was a band there whose task was to provide musical accompaniment to the stories, and bragged that even if no one told any "tales" (HAW!!!) they had "literally hundreds of cat related songs to play."
OH SWEET JESUS, NO.
On the upside, the band's name was "Scab Harvest." On the downside, they were one of those "indie rock dissonance bands" that equate noise and lack of ability with entertainment. On another upside, they did have some amusing lyrics about cats. On another downside, they had a "keyboardist" who just sat there plunking random keys, occasionally honking on a recorder, and looking bipolar. VERY CAT LIKE.
So they played a couple of dissonant obviously unrehearsed songs, asking now and then if any of the ten people (and three old baseball drunks) had any cat stories to share. Awkward silences ensued, and I suddenly felt like I was on the verge of being annoyed to death. Everything made me feel like I was a human pin cushion: WHAT AM I DOING HERE??? WHY IS THAT KEYBOARDIST ACTING SO WEIRD??? (NOTE: She's probably a very nice person in real life. But this wasn't real life.)
Anyway, eventually someone got up and told a rather short story about dissecting cats for a high school biology class which made her suffer a psychological breakdown. You could really tell she sincerely loved cats SO MUCH. Blech. That's when I had the idea: No one ever tells the truth about cats—about how horrible and stupid they can be. THIS WAS MY OPPORTUNITY. I could get up there and tell everyone THE TRUTH... which would not only make them uncomfortable, it would make me uncomfortable, too (there's nothing quite so awful as trying to communicate with an unreceptive audience—I should know... I'm the editor of the Mercury).
So at the next opportunity, I jumped up to the mic, and told the story of my cat—BABY SQUEAKS: An absolutely atrocious animal that has spread more evil and displeasure than Pol Pot, and at 14 years old staunchly refuses to die. (And did you know that vets refuse to euthanize animals on demand? I didn't.) If you want to watch my story, Rich Brueckner of Overheard in PDX videotaped the entire thing (thanks Rich!), and my rant starts at the 11:30 mark.
ACK! Pretty discomfortable, huh? Purposefully speaking far too long, I would occasionally look out at the ten or so people there, and revel in the look of total disgust on their faces. (Happily the band joined me in making our audience as uncomfortable as possible. I'm pretty sure that wasn't on purpose.) Anyway, after roughly ten interminable minutes, I sat down, confident in my continuing ability to ruin anything good in the world. And even better? That keyboardist gal got up right after me, nearly breaking down in tears during her cat story about... I'm sure I don't know. I wasn't listening, I was too busy gloating over my performance and maintaining my disinterest in the feelings of others. The point is that her unbridled emotion (following my callousness) made me feel like even more of a dick than before! Unfortunately, my never ending cynical speech didn't drive the remaining people from the bar, and a few more people got up and told stories that, while not uncomfortable, wouldn't make anyone drive a spike into their ears. And a couple were even pretty good. One was about a cat that was stuck in a heating vent, and the owners got him out BY CRANKING UP THE HEAT ALL THE WAY (blistering the kitty's paws in the process). And people think I'M a monster? I SALUTE YOU, STORY-TELLER!
All in all, the thing lasted for an hour and registered about a 7.5 on my discomfortable meter. I normally run about a four. I am happy, however, that I was able to add my own modicum of discomfortability to the situation. To the cat lovers of the world? YOU'RE WELCOME.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!