Walter Mencken 10 a.m., Oct. 9
- Community Blog
A Cat's View of "C" Street
Name: Gray Cat Age: 3 Occupation: Companion Neighborhood: Abandoned California Theater Building on C Street
From my address you might suppose that I am homeless. You would be partly right. True, my neighborhood is a homelessness place. But still, it’s my home and it’s the home of several people, including my Person.
Unusually, for a homelessness place, I can put a roof over my head. My carrier box sits on our shopping cart. You may have seen the ad: “Economical single-occupancy walk-up loft. Open views. Very central. Pets okay. Shared bath.”
My neighborhood sees a lot of transients; but it isn’t a neighborhood in transition. The transients may leave to look for different weather or company or amenity. But none of that motivates me. My box shelters me from rain, and there’s always my fur coat on a cold night. I have a high perch for sleeping, low shrubbery for exploring and the nearby rodent sanctuary of the abandoned theater for, um…rodents.
My people never ask passersby for anything. But the occasional gift of Cat Chow sets off subdued celebrations.
The neighborhood is just a wide spot on the sidewalk. Its landscape includes a scruffy tree for bird watching and a dusty hedge for bug hunting. There is plenty of room for cart parking, and from my penthouse perch on top of one, I can see the vast oasis of the Westgate Dining Room. What unimaginable cat treats must await in those garbage cans!
Even though my neighborhood is small, it is active. By day, lawyers and businessmen, law clerks and secretaries stride purposely toward essential appointments. Language students amble together practicing English in various accents. Disoriented tourists wander tentatively, consulting unfurled maps. Meanwhile cyclists of every human description defy the NO SIDEWALK CYCLING signs to slalom through everyone as if we were obstacles in the X-Games Challenge.
Nighttime attractions are less predictable. A Civic Theater crowd might hurry past if they can’t find good parking. A siren might shriek up Fifth Street to save whatever needs saving. A future patron of the C Street bail bond emporiums might howl his innocence to the unrelenting Authorities. A Gas Lamp celebrant might re-examine the contents of an ill-advised taco as he ponders the complexities of north versus south on the Blue Line trolley.
But these intervals of dissonance don’t change the fundamental rhythm of my neighborhood. I have said that this is are not a neighborhood in transition. It is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow. The weather may warm us or challenge us. The peripheral neighbors may move out or return. The Kibble supply may ebb or flow. But the neighborhood remains monotonously immutable.
We are always here or near enough to here that no one will try to take here from us. We are a still point sandwiched between the sidewalks of Lawyer Land and the rail lines of the People Cylinders.
Lawyers and their claque circumambulate their daily path from the courthouse to the jailhouse to the alehouse in their inalterable routine. Trolley travelers travel toward Mexico and back, and toward Old Town and back. Tomorrow’s tourists follow yesterday’s to the next must-see landmark, scenic vista and roadside attraction.
But we are always just here at our still point of pavement permanence. And if we stay here long enough, which we always do, everyone will pass us again, because they were never really going anywhere.
So you can keep your briefcases and Compass passes and guidebooks. I’ll keep my cart-top perch and carrier box and careless rats.
Or, as the author of "Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats" once wrote: “Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging.”