No Middle Name

“I was self important.

The one thing that sticks out when reading these pieces of poetry and prose is they are written by a young man who feels as though his view is unique and important. And, from what I recall of myself at the time, that’s precisely what I thought I was. It’s okay, it was my 20s.”

If you watch the Vibrio Vulnificus Football Club playlist straight through, it’s like a badly edited, esoteric documentary/mockumentary about flag football and drinking…

Cyclist run over, killed by large truck in Marigny

I saw the aftermath of this horrible accident and was pretty damaged by it.

The response to it by some members of our community has been further damaging.

The witch hunt is on. People want the driver of the truck charged, not realizing or caring how little tangible good that will do. Not realizing how much very real damage it will inflict on someone who is undoubtedly already distraught beyond words. They want to make him an example so that others will view his situation and not make the same mistake he presumably did and cost more lives. This is after the police, who have a greater understanding of both the situation and the laws that apply to it have declined to charge him. And ultimately it is up to them to make and live with that very hard decision.

People need blame though. There always has to be fault. Someone has to always suffer. You can read through 375 comments in the story above and so many of them are about blame. The cyclist. The truck driver. Eventually of course, they start blaming each other, their philosophies and “people like” them. Many times they see themselves as perpetually victimized.

They blame “the city” whether that means politicians or planners or civic engineers, I don’t know. But before this accident people had as much of an opportunity to get involved as they are now, but didn’t. They are stirred to action by a tragedy and that’s understandable. But consider that just a few actions before this event could have helped also. Maybe some postings on a page or message board or even a conversation about the dangers of cycling on St. Claude, a state highway packed with commercial traffic from industries in St. Bernard and Plaquemines. It’s not safe. It won’t be made such. It’s a truck route. Believe it or not, we need trucks for our locally produced organic fruits and vegetables and all sorts of other items. We have to coexist with them. They can have state roads and we can stick to neighborhoods.

And “the city”? It’s ALL OF US. Citizens are part of the government. So really, if blame is to be assigned here, why did cycling activists fail to spur the types of change to prevent this types of accident? I don’t really blame activists. But see how easy it is to assign blame?

With no compassion, people callously photographed, posted and shared grotesque images of this man’s horribly disfigured corpse laying on the hot asphalt of Elysian Fields with the arrogant reasoning being “people need to see what can happen” as if the rest of us who may be sensitive to such images can’t possibly conjure the emotions without being subjected to such an assault. We are sensitive to those images because we CAN conjure them, quickly and intensely. Many of us have experienced them. Or they said “this is the only way things are going to change” as if the news accounts or descriptions of what happened wouldn’t suffice, as if there were no alternative to achieving this outcome without taking this very drastic step.

I can only assume that people were very emotional and acted in an emotional way by posting or sharing the pictures. That’s understandable. But it says a lot about the sensitivities someone lacks when they think, without consideration, that a visual battery like the images of that man’s very vulnerable vessel in the street are required to spur someone’s feelings. The damage done to everyone who viewed it is very tangible and palpable and the good they are hoping to get out of it is abstract and diffuse and can’t be proven. But the what I felt seeing it all again can be proven because I am here saying it. The sensibilities of myself and anyone who may have been damaged by the photos weren’t considered and this was stated bluntly. It was stated. Anyone who objected to them were bullied.

And Geric Geck? The victim? He had no say in it. Wasn’t given a chance. Decisions about how he would be portrayed in the very intimate moments after his death were made for him. For many people that is all they will ever know of him despite that he was an artist and a friend and an animal lover. I can say if something ever happens to me or someone I love, I would beg my fellow humans to give us our privacy.

It struck me more as gory, grotesque fetishism. There was an arrogance behind it that whoever posted it assumed they knew better what we needed to see than we did. It was unwelcome. Seeing the aftermath of the accident I can say I have never seen something so awful in my life. I had not even had a chance to just decompress or cherish the people in my life and begin to recover from it before the images began showing up in my Facebook feed. Stirring it up again.

To Sherry and Rex and Louis, the people I contacted on Facebook about taking them down, thank you for doing that. I wish more were capable of your understanding that even if it spurs folks to action, that’s not the only way to do so. It certainly was an easy way though.

I read accounts in the news of people taking photos of the dying Bourbon Street shooting victim a few weeks back, interfering with efforts to save her life. And a few years ago, there were photos of entertainer Messy Mya taken moments after he was shot posted on the Internet almost instantly. It’s never ok, for any reason.

Perhaps if in the moments after this accident someone could have simply thought to take their shirt off and enact one of our civilization’s oldest death rituals and cover this man and save him and his loved ones from the very public display of what really should have been intimate.

I ride a bike quite often in New Orleans. I ride for work, for play. I ride Uptown, West Bank, the Quarter, the Marigny, Bywater. Everywhere. I put it on a boat sometimes. I am also somewhat involved. Not as much as I should be. I could do more. We all could. I have been to marches like this and protests like this and this. I organize a conference for the future of New Orleans and have for several years. I’m involved somewhat. I should do more. That’s my failing. So, I should be exactly the type of person who should be spurred to movement by this cycling death.

Unfortunately, I will have to do so on my own because I have no wish or want to be involved with any cycling organization that feels it has to post pictures of mutilated people to promote its message. It is EXACTLY THE SAME tactic as abortion protesters who post mangled fetuses. The causes are different. But the tactic is identical.

So in people’s rush to force people to get involved through their posting of graphic imagery, perhaps they need to consider how many supporters they are losing by doing so. But maybe they will be too wrapped up in their outrage porn to realize it.

I also am forced to think about the first responders to this accident, what they saw, and what they must see every day in a routine manner. This was an isolated event that I happened to regrettably see. To them, it is an everyday part of their lives. And they aren’t allowed to process it properly because they have jobs to do. It’s their job to sort it out for the rest of us and not for themselves in their hearts and souls. But I am sure, the images and the sorrow and the experiences they go through doesn’t just vanish. They endure it. For something of a paycheck but also for duty and to try and help. And they are so often criticized and not enough thanked for it. Particularly police.

The bonafide good that someone can do is contribute to this man’s funeral fund…

Fund for Geric Geck’s final trip home

What would also do a some good is a little understanding that even tiny errors have huge consequences. But it was still an error. Whether it was an error of the cyclist or the trucker or, the most probable scenario, a little fault of both. It was an error. Similar to forgetting your keys at home or spilling coffee. One life is over. There is no need to ruin another one. Results can be achieved other ways. Human’s don’t always have to suffer.

The Universe is sometimes cruel and we have to have accept the the things we cannot change. In this incident, we cannot reverse this man’s very tragic, very sad death.

The courage to change the things we can is showing one of humanity’s essential virtues, compassion, to one of the people most affected by it, this working man from Violet.

2014-04-13 18.04.10

Rev. Varg Vargas - Can PARTY professionally.

Rev. Varg Vargas – Can PARTY professionally.

Hello The Lens!

I noticed you had a job opening posted on your Web site…

Part-time event and sales manager

I think I am uniquely qualified for this position. I don’t know if I have an actual resume listing my qualifications on hand but a quick look at my social network accounts should give you a pretty good idea of who I am and what I can do. Or just ask around the office. Someone there will know me and can vouch for me. If they don’t, let me know who didn’t.

I can tell you I did some writing a decade or so ago, some editing for a paper, some other stuff. I hung out with rich folks in La Jolla. I wrote some cover stories for the Gay and Lesbian Times in San Diego. I was the managing editor of Gator Tales, my high school newspaper. Whatever. You don’t need to know any of this stuff. Anyone can work at a paper. Look at Nola.com

The reason why I think I am uniquely qualified for the position is I noticed a huge part of the job will be PARTYING. Having just PARTIED last night and the night (and the day) before and the night before that, I can assure you I have not gotten rusty in the field of PARTYING. I am in my PARTY prime.

But I don’t just PARTY for fun. At my current job as a Jackson Square artist I PARTY a lot. A lot of the charm it takes to convince a visitor to New Orleans to buy salvaged wood folk art is conjured by PARTYING. I also mingle with local luminaries from all areas of New Orleans culture.

I can honestly say I have been PARTYING now for 25 years and I am getting pretty good at it. For instance, I have only fallen down twice in all that time. Once was on Fat Tuesday in 2011 and to my credit, I staggered and stumbled for a good 30 feet before finally touching a knee to the ground.  Also, it was on uneven ground and I was the last person in my group not to have fallen down up until that point.

A photo of Varg PARTYING in 1992. Note: Cisco!

A photo of Varg PARTYING in 1992. Note: Cisco!


The other was at a Benihana. I don’t really want to talk about that.

I also do not puke. In all my years of PARTYING I could count all the times I have vomited from doing so on one hand and those were all in the first ten years. I can hold my liquor and go drink-for-drink with anyone for the first 6 – 8 drinks. That just shows how good I am at PARTYING though. I will not achieve sloppiness nor go on 12-hour binges and ruin my life. I budget my PARTYING well.

I noticed that I will have to not only attend these PARTIES but also throw…excuse me, produce, these PARTIES. You will be relieved to know I have been “producing” PARTIES for years. Both in a professional setting as a banquet manager for hotels and clubs all over the I-10 Gulf Coast Corridor and privately for friends and family.

During this experience I was adept at pacing the event and handling the any emergencies that may come up. Like when that toddler caught fire. My quick thinking led to it only having 2nd degree burns all over its body instead of 3rd.

You may have heard stories of the annual sacred festival of Varg Gras every Oct. 27 – Nov.2 or my annual Moonshine & Heartpine Bivavle Bash every New Year’s Day. Just ask around and you will hear tales told of these great PARTIES. Many “culture bearers” attend each. If a bomb were to explode in the middle of them, New Orleans culture would be crippled for years!

There is also the weekly event know as Wiggy Wednesday. Sure, it’s more of a private thing taking place in a bubble bath in my home but I have consistently indulged in it most Wednesdays for the last ten years. Check my twitter feed each Wednesday night for evidence of just how spirited an event Wiggy Wednesday is!

A vision for possible future The Lens events.

A vision for possible future The Lens events.

Anyway, so you know I can PARTY both professionally and leisurely. I have shown my qualifications. But, if you need to schedule a showcase of my abilities, I could meet you at Mollys some night.

I can also offer my services as an officiant for any blessings, eulogies, ceremonies, toasts or sermons you may need.

I can also decorate The Lens offices with New Orleans salvaged wood folk art for $10,000 a room.

I do however have some questions for you.

1.) The listing says I will be “ reporting to the development director.” Does he or she PARTY?  I can’t work with anyone who doesn’t. I will make exceptions for someone who used to PARTY but quit because they PARTIED too much. I won’t respect them deep down but I will work with them.

2.) I will have to produce an event called “Breakfast with the Newsmakers” 10 times a year. Are there currently Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers served at this event? Because I will be adding them if not. Also, just how early is this event? It’s not on a Thursday is it? I often get a slow start after a Wiggy Wednesday.

3.) These ”3 evening forums open to the public,” when you say “evening” do you mean like happy hour, after work, “evening” or like Snake and Jakes “evening”? Because the later it gets the more solicitations from donors I could get if you know what I’m sayin’!

4.) What sorts of things were you wanting to do with the “Lens Birthday Party”? Because I have some ideas. Working on Jackson Square,  I know lots of street performers. We could get Robotron. There is a gold guy who holds a football (don’t drink after him). There is a guy who holds a picture frame and looks through it. There is “Bird Lady.” Also, all these people PARTY. It could be like an average Saturday afternoon at Jackson Square but at The Lens birfday party! I could get Tropical Isle to serve Hand Grenades. Think about it.

5.) I have some concerns where it reads, “Other events as they present themselves.” Just what sort of events are these? I am sure we both know how lurid Louisiana politics can be and I want you to know I don’t do kinky shit. I’m not going to any David Vitter diaper party. I PARTY but if anything you guys have in mind involves more than beer, whiskey or wine then I am going to expect a platinum health care plan, a lawyer on retainer and some sort of expense account, not to mention access to any favorable judges or politicians. If I have to dress in drag, I will, but it’s $500 as soon as I slip on the pumps.

6.) It says, “Assure maintenance of sponsor records.” I really do not want to do this. Could you transfer these responsibilities to someone else?

7.) It says, “Attend weekly staff meetings.” How early are these? Are they on Thursdays? I got this thing called Wiggy Wednesday see…

8.) It says, “Prepare brief weekly status reports.” How brief can these be? Will, “We’re good” be sufficient? I have a hard time quantifying things that are abstract.

9.) According to the listing I must be able to, “Handle detailed, complex concepts.” My question to you is, can YOU?

10.) I will need to establish “strong and appropriate relationships” with donors. Is blackmail “strong and appropriate”?

11.) How important is “being a team player”? When I bring a six-pack to a friends house and only drink 4, I leave the remaining two. Does that count?

These are all the questions I have. I think I have clearly showed my qualifications for the job. When can I expect to start? Please act quickly. The Advocate has an offer on the table and I don’t want to leave them hanging. Me and “Georgie Boy” are bros. We PARTIED so hard at Kagan’s back in the day.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Rev. Varg Vargas

You will often see, in those vignettes of New Orleans that precede commercial breaks during prime time Saints football games, or the Super Bowl, or TV shows about New Orleans or perhaps even NBA All Star games, camera shots intended to capture, in a few moments, the vibrancy of the city. You’ll see a man playing a brass instrument with a tip jar. You’ll see the Cathedral and folks walking around Jackson Square. You’ll see crawfish or oysters or shrimp being eaten and Dixieland jazz playing in the background. It’s like “Hey! Here we are and this is what we do!”

What you often also see is transportation. Because often, cities are defined by their modes of public transport and these become icons of those cities. Trolleys in San Francisco, bridges in New York, in Los Angeles they have…well, forget Los Angeles.

In New Orleans, streetcars are often shown. But if you pay attention, you will notice the Algiers Ferry is shown quite often also. Usually flanked by GNO bridge with the river undulating in the background.

I don’t blame directors for framing the city up this way. It’s a great shot. Particularly so when one is actually out there on the river experiencing it. Lit up by the sun during the day or in the glow of the city at night, it’s a unique way to see the New Orleans holistically, yet from within.

With a quick shot of the ferry, a narrative can be told in one second. The premise is, “Look at New Orleans, this venerable city on America’s most vital waterway. Look at its robust culture and how it moves its citizens from one place to another across this great, historic river. Here is this vast expanse that previously would stop human migration right at its banks but here, now, daily, in the great city of New Orleans, the citizens can simply ride their bicycles onto a ship and cross the river whilst sipping cocktails from plastic cups. How glorious is humankind?!”

But of course, it is a lie. It’s just for TV. Like so much of New Orleans is becoming these days.

The reality is the ferry is a symbol not of the vibrancy of public transportation but of its abandonment.

Where we are now with it is Veolia Transportation, a private company in France who runs bus lines in the city for the Regional Transit Authority, has taken over the ferry operations. And in spite of the initial declarations of having a “goal of” a return to original hours, the current language is “would consider … based on.” So no timetable as to when and, based on how pitiful the City and State government’s dedication to the ferry has been, its easy to think probably never.

And these hours are crucial. The expectation is the ferry needs to be made viable financially in spite of the fact that the product being provided isn’t worth the price they are asking. Yet it must be paid for for it to eventually be. Huh?

For instance, a monthly pass is $65. The value for such a pass increases greatly as hours are increased and decreases as they are reduced. Am I expected to just pony up the money to city government and then hope the hours increase one day?

Also, as it relates to value, what will be the recourse when I purchase my monthly pass and the ferry breaks down, as it has many, many, many, many, many, many times? The value then goes down even more.

So if the ferry is trying to be sold as having to generate a profit to make up for the budget shortfall, ( + whatever Veolia is making) what sort of business model is it to provide a “product” that runs half as much as it ran before and often doesn’t run at all? Just how much faith in Veolia Transportation are the people of New Orleans supposed to have? I would sooner put $65 in a collection plate at the local church and hope I get to heaven before paying for the current level of service being offered.

And pardon me if I am distrustful. But after the fiasco that was the Crescent City Connection bridge tolls vote last year, I have a reason to be. The miseducation of many New Orleanians was that voting yes to the tolls would have funded and ensured the ferries operation long term. But that wasn’t the case in the first election as the ferries had been decoupled from the bridge tolls before the election. Word didn’t get out about that nearly as quickly as the notion that preserving the tolls would save the ferry and the extension actually passed (with the help of a little East Bank snobbery I think).

But the election was so close and so seemingly reeking of some sort of bambozzlefication not related to the original boondogglery of the miseducation of the voters, that a revote had to be cast and the tolls were eventually shot down for good.

I’ll also add that the habit of linking the ferries to the tolls was still not broken even in that second election as people were still saying we needed bridge tolls to run the ferries even in spite of the fact that no one had ever written anything guaranteeing such. It was all just more “hope for” and “goal is” and “dependent on.”

You can read any article on the ferries including this one from TODAY (Feb. 17, 2014) and look at the comments to see that the myth that the tolls would have funded the ferries persists still.

But hey, it’s not like there wasn’t bamboozlery of some sort happening even when the ferries were attached to the bridge.

So not only is the product we are receiving for our $65 not up to par, the “manufacturer” of the product so to speak can’t really be trusted.

So let’s just leave the whole ferry operating with a business model thing aside for right now. Because it almost seems designed to fail.

The new stance by any civic-minded person motivated by this ferry fiasco should be: The ferry needs to be a free, public service that needs to be restored to its original hours with the “goal of” 24 hour service like streetcars.

Each day, people of New Orleans have to endure the hassle and the appropriation of our streets for movie companies because they help the local economy and the money goes…somewhere.

Year after year we endure the closing of streets and the traffic nightmares brought on by events like the Sugar Bowl and the Super Bowl and the NBA All Star Game and political conventions and music festivals that disrupt our lives constantly and the money goes…somewhere.

We endure the increasing encroachment of a tourist-based economy driving out businesses and replacing them with T-shirt shops and huge double decker buses driving through our neighborhoods and see our true culture replaced with a “version” of our culture and the money goes … somewhere.

We are force fed projects like “Reinventing the Crescent” which promises it will “reconnect us to the river” and is hailed as an “essential public investment.” Yet, no where in the plan was it thought that perhaps being on a ship that crosses the river may be a unique way to truly reconnect to the river from both banks. And $300 million in public money (that could have funded the ferry for decades) for that project goes … somewhere (or maybe into the hands of Bywater / Marigny developers).

We have to listen to testimonies in the trials of our former Mayor (and many more before him) who funneled money into the pockets of themselves and cronies millions of dollars of public money that goes … well we know where it went.

No one should accept doing “more with less” in New Orleans right now. We have heard story after story of how vibrant our recovery has been and entrepreneur this and cultural economy that. Yet, something as vital as a historical method public transportation is being reduced?

Businesses in Algiers have suffered. Real estate in Algiers has suffered. Workers in Algiers have suffered.

The Algiers Ferry needs to be free and it needs to run all the time. Find a way. Ferries all over the world are paid for by governments. It is a public service.

That’s what Algiers needs for its low wage workers to get to and from their jobs in the CBD /French Quarter. That’s what the employers of these people need to see their employees make it to work each day regardless if they are working days, nights or graveyards. That’s what tourists need to have a pedestrian thoroughfare across the river and back and experience New Orleans as a whole. That’s what people in Algiers who want to leave their cars at home and bike or walk across the river need to experience East Bank food, music, parks, museums, nightlife, administration. It’s what New Orleans needs to continue to provide for its entire populace.

Ordinary people are becoming activists over this.

OleBuckarooJustCover

“When Ray signed the six-month lease on his one-bedroom apartment in Bunker Springs, the management company pitched the place to him as being “in a convenient location” and “budget-smart” and the neighborhood as a “hidden treasure.” They failed to mention it was in the midst of an underground sex district.
They did take pets though.”

I first got the idea for The Ole Buckaroo while chatting with fellow artists
on Jackson Square. It was a slow Sunday morning and everyone was a bit
bored. I remember asking Lidia, “Have you ever heard of an Ole
Buckaroo?” and then began describing the scene in the story in a
stream-of-conciousness way. I kept it in my head and turned it over in my
mind at stop lights or in line at the bank and thought I could get a short
story out of it. It is indeed smutty. And certainly rated NC-17 even by my
liberal scale. But regardless of the low brow the subject matter, I am
pleased with it because it represents the 40 year old writer I am. No longer
a self important bad, sad, poet, I instead wrote something that had a
natural narrative, characters and plot. I think it is the best piece of literature
I have eever written. So who cares if it is vulgar, rude, crude, dirty, filthy,
salacious, coarse, obscene, lewd, and pornographic?
I hope you enjoy it. -Varg

Buy the Print Edition here (ships in 2- 10 days).

For the Kindle edition: click here.

zonbutton

 

Promo Vid #1

Promo Vid #2

Tuna Melt #32 Post Practice Interview 1

BEFFTANK #98 Post Practice Interview 1

Johnny Oktober #7 Post Practice Interview 1

Poochie #00 Post Practice Interview 1

A-Bear #88 Post Practice Interview 1

Rev. #69 Post Practice Interview 1

Smooth Merge Post Practice Interview 1

BEEFTANK #98

Rev. #69 Post Practice Interview 2

Johnny Oktober Post Practice Interview 2

Tuna Melt Post Practice Interview 2

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Smooth Merge & Tuna Melt Post Practice Interview 1

2014-01-07 13.06
January 1, 2014
‘cloudy with a sense of rain’

Gospel:
“With the breakdown of the medieval system, the gods of chaos, lunacy, and bad taste gained ascendancy.”
Ignatius was writing in one of his Big Chief tablets.

After a period in which the western world had enjoyed order, tranquility, unity, and oneness with its True God and Trinity, there appeared winds of change which spelled evil days ahead. An ill wind blows no one good. The luminous years of Abélard, Thomas à Becket, and Everyman dimmed into dross; Fortuna’s wheel had turned on humanity, crushing its collarbone, smashing its skull, twisting its torso, puncturing its pelvis, sorrowing its soul. Having once been so high, humanity fell so low. What had once been dedicated to the soul was now dedicated to the sale.

By Ignatius J. Rielly
From A Confederacy of Dunces

Sermon:
Brothers + Sisters, fathers + sons, mothers + daughters, husbands + wives, friends and family, consider with me your souls, your energies, your essence. Free from any other applied construct of economics, of spirituality, of sociology, your soul stands here on Earth, under the influence of these ideas but not commanded by them. Your souls! The biological electricity of your being, the coded programming of your ancestry, the psychological persuasion of your mind, are allies in your journey of discovery, a discovery of yourself, your universe and yourself IN the Universe. Your soul is your vessel in this odyssey. Your soul is abstract, undefined, nebulous, luminous, enlightened. Scientists have searched for it. Clergy have claimed possession of it. But it has eluded theircontainment and runs free. With intimacy we cling to it. And sadly, at times we feel it slipping away, but for this moment, for us here now, today, it burns blue, blue, blue.

tybs

Mr. Tybs you were always a real piece of shit cat.

You pissed on things. You raped Talula. You swiped at Doris. You puked a lot. You were annoying. You had bad teeth. You ignored the litter box. You never caught things. You didn’t play. Your purr was almost inaudible. You never loved us and I certainly never loved you.

I got you in early 1997 at a time when all my friends who lived at an old apartment building called the “Mad Mansion” in Pensacola were getting cats. We were practicing for parenthood I suppose and the wise choice was to get a cat first because a cat is easier than a dog and a dog was easier than a baby so, fine, a cat.

So you arrived around the same time as Ashley’s black and white and badass outside cat Gish and her spoiled and bratty inside cat Jelly and Elaine’s calico Simone and Josh’s jet black Louis. You and your “twin brother” Nick arrived at our apartment on Gregory St. in Pensacola. Carmel got Nick and I got you. The only difference between you and Nick was a small patch of handsome white fur under the neck that resembled a pendent. That sophisticated mark was on Nick of course. You were just an utterly cheerless charcoal gray. The color of an encroaching thundercloud or something burned down. The only other physical difference between you and Nick was a subtler one. He having a more chiseled face and yours more undefined.

There were other differences though.

“He got folded up in a recliner,” Josh told me about you after he already made the choice to give Nick to his then girlfriend Carmel, whom he doted on. It was suggested that some sort of neurological damage had been done to you during the undetermined amount of time your kitten self spent folded up in the recliner. You certainly always appeared a little slow.

When you and Nick were kittens we would have people over and they all loved Nick. He would jump up on the furniture and arch his back and play with toys and run around on the hardwood floors all crazy. My friends would laugh and smile and cuddle Nick. You would just sleep a lot and if you moved at all it was just to go from one room to another. Sometimes you watched. I got you toys but you wouldn’t play with them. I wanted a real cool, loving, playful, cute cat and you just weren’t any of those things.

You didn’t DO stuff. You never sat in a window sill. You never curled up on my lap. You never chased a crumpled up piece of paper. Nick did but you didn’t.

I gave you a noble name at first. Tybalt was the hot-headed Prince of Cats from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the Reynard the Fox trickster tales before that. I was enthralled with John Leguizamo’s performance in the Baz Luhrman movie that was released around that time. I named you this in tribute to the performance and because at the time I had not yet learned humility and thought if you were going to be my cat, you were going to be the prince of cats.

You arrived at a time of transition for me. I was leaving the “little shit” stage I had been passionately entrenched in since 1985 and your acquisition was just the first in a series of decisions I made in which more responsibility and less recklessness would be required.

Josh, Carmel and I decided to move to New Orleans and Louis, Nick and you came along.

Gish caught a parasite and died shortly before. Everybody loved Gish. He liked to go for car rides. He ate hamburgers. He never lost a fight. The night he died, the comet Hale-Bop was in full view in the sunset horizon. I wanted a cat like Gish but I got you.

You spent your time at our house in New Orleans off General Pershing ignoring the litter box and pissing in my closet. I was embarking on a life of responsibility and had my first salaried position and was in over my head stressed out all the time. I was working 60+hour work weeks and you were urinating in my closet three times a day. You did it so much my roommates wrote magnet poetry about it on the fridge. We had a litter box. You could have used it but didn’t.

You would get out from time to time and I would responsibly try to find you but you would never let me catch you, instead sitting just out of my reach, not coming to me, then running off when I tried to grab you.

At my wit’s end with the job and desperately needing something completely new, I gave up on my plan to be a hospitality manager and moved out to California to get an education and be a writer. Josh and Carmel very nicely agreed to keep you until I could bring you out.

They had to leave in a year and you needed to be transferred over to my parents’ house. I remember the day we went to pick you up to take them there my dad was meeting us at Josh and Carmel’s to help catch you because you always ran away. When he arrived he was already there he said he had already caught you and that it was quite easy and you were a very nice cat. I wasn’t surprised when I saw the cat my dad caught was actually Nick.

It took three of us quite a bit to catch you. It wasn’t easy. On you or us.

You lived with my parents for another four years. My mother loved you. My father didn’t. I would rarely see you when I came to visit. You went out at night on the lagoon and slept under the bed during the day. You wisely never pissed in their house. You probably knew what would have happened to you if you did.

Perhaps those nights on the lagoon were your glory years. Perhaps it was then, among the beavers and the toads and ducks and the snakes and the alligators and great blue herons, that you were great. Because all the rest of the time you just weren’t much of anything. Just there enough to be there and require care.

I abandoned California and came back to New Orleans with Romy and our new cat, a female named Talula. My parents house had been wiped out by Hurricane Ivan and they dutifully took care of you during the evacuation, the relocation and the rebuilding of their home. But my father made it clear that with his new, spotless home being built and with my being back in New Orleans, you would be returning to my custodianship.

When Hurricane Dennis came, my parents evacuated to New Orleans and brought you with them. When they went back home after the storm they left you with us. You christened our house by climbing up on the back of our new fabric couch and pissing on it. Then as we tried various techniques to get the acrid smell of your piss out, you pissed on the cushions as well. We threw out the couch.

You began pissing on any garment left on the floor and seldom if ever using the litter box. We had to throw out the bath mats and many, many winter mornings our cold, wet feet touched the chilly tile floor. You peed on rugs so, fine, no rugs. I bought a plastic one thinking you only peed on fabric but you peed on it too. Sometimes we couln’t find where you peed, only knew it was somewhere.

The very few times you attempted to use the litter box, you mostly just sat in it and pissed or shit off the side onto the floor. You didn’t know how to use it.

I began to develop a deep aversion to the acrid pheremonal smell of your urine. I hated it like I hate the smell of radiator water. It is always associated with something bad.

Hurricane Katrina came and when we evacuated with you you seemed to understand that you were not to piss on the floors of any of the homes we were staying at and used the litter box instead. I think maybe this was a notion of respect or intelligence but then why was the home we lived in together not treated the same?

After we returned from evacuation, feral dogs began killing cats in the neighborhood. I was awakened one night to them chasing you around under the house. I called out for you and found you in a tree across the street. I had to get a ladder out and get you because you wouldn’t come down. I didn’t like you but didn’t want you to go out like that.

by this time, Josh’s jet black cat Louis wandered off, never to be seen or heard of again.

A urine soaked year or two later, we found Doris. She was a very cute, sweet, friendly, smart, loyal, affectionate dog whom you hated. You intimidated her as much as you could. You would trap her in bedrooms by swatting at her nose when she tried to push the door open. With your deep ashy coloring you hid yourself in shadows and, like a Moray eel emerged from hiding and swiped at her as she joyfully went by. You would stand in doorways daring her to pass and she wouldn’t. She could have killed you easily but you owned her.

You began raping Talula late at night. Even though I had your testicles removed in 1998 you still felt the need to impose your feline masculinity on Talula by simulating the terrible feline sex act on her. Always waiting until Romy and I were in bed, under the covers, before you began your approach to her with guttural, repetitive meows. Stalking her, oblivious to her cries, you would pounce on her, biting the back of her neck while she hissed, wrestling her. Night after night, year after year you did this. You would come in at night, eat your wet food, wait until we went to bed and rape Talula. We always knew it was about to begin because you would chant, “Wow-wowww…wow-wowww…wow-wowww.” Then, rape.

You didn’t like to be held. If we would pick you up and try to be affectionate with you, you would just stare off into space looking uncomfortable and seeming to wish it was all over. Then when we put you down you would make sure to physically shake it off.

On rare occasions, our affection would make you purr but it was always barely detectable. Almost not there at all.

As we learned to not put any fabric or garment on the floor, you took to just urinating in the kitchen by the garbage can. For years, any morning after a night you spent in the house would begin with a yellow puddle of your piss in the kitchen. Most of the time I was lucky enough to see it but sometimes I went to the sink to get water at night and would step right in a puddle of your piss and it would instantly soak into my white athletic sock.

On some occasions, a sport coat or casual jacket I placed on a hamper or couch would fall on to the floor and you would piss on it. It would dry and then, in my haste out the door the following day, I would grab the garment and head to work or to errands or to some social event. With luck I would begin to smell your piss in the car and have to turn around. A few times I was left without a jacket because the one I chose had the unmistakable odor of cat pee.

I began to say the phrase “cat pee” so much that I envisioned a hip hop artist whose name was “Cat P.” Yo! Yo! This is Cat P all up in your area!

I think around this time you ceased to be Tybalt and became Mr. Tybs. One was a regal name and the other sounded like an old son of a bitch.

About the only thing sweet you did was greet us when we came home. But this was usually in the evening and you may have just been doing it as a way of saying, “Hooray, the people that feed me are here to feed me.”

You were often insistent about your food. Following Romy around or meowing until you were fed. Bothering me while I attempted to work. You were always sure that if I got up from my chair it must be to feed you and you marched into the kitchen. Then you became confused when I went to the bathroom and then returned.

Like a dolt, you would constantly eat your food too fast and then throw up. You threw up other times too. Many times I would be eating dinner and hear the thumping sound of your stomach contracting and then the liquidy release.

During these years, Elaine called to tell me she had her calico cat Simone put to sleep.

I tried to respect you and treat you like the elder of our tribe that you were. Not chronologically the oldest, true, but if lifespans were factored in, you were the oldest. I tried to respect that in spite of all the piss you showered onto our floors.

I heard around this time your twin brother, the mercurial Nick jumped out of a parked car window and ran off into a neighborhood. Maybe he is living with some nice old lady, maybe he was eaten by something. He was never heard from again. So barring the unlikely survival of Ashley’s cat Jelly, who was a few years older than you, you became the sole survivor of the cats of the Mad Mansion. You wore them all down you old, dumb fucker.

The last straw was the night you pissed on the electric outlet in the dining room. I was in the kitchen and heard the unmistakable sound of something shorting out. I followed the sound to the electrical outlet and as I got close, I stepped in a puddle of your acrid piss and it soaked my athletic sock. With a flashlight I examined the outlet and saw your piss all over the baseboard and inside the socket. I wondered why you weren’t electrocuted. I wished secretly that you had.

I must contrast this incident with one that happened around the same time. I was sleeping on the couch and a burglar was attempting to break in the next room. As he tried to remove the glass from a window, Doris instantly sprang to action and began barking loudly at the window. This scared the man and he fell off the ladder he was on and staggered off. See, one pet protected the home while the other put it in jeopardy. One pet is loving and sweet and requires little care and the other pet was you.

So it came time to put you out permanently. The electrical outlet incident and the years of piss were too much. I needed a piss-free environment for my sanity. You had plenty of chances to straighten up. Earlier this year, when the weather began to warm, you became a permanent outside cat. We had a fence built to keep you safe. You could stay on the front porch.

Your age was beginning to show by this time. Your teeth were bad. You had lost weight. Your muscles seemed weak. But of course, instead of shitting in the yard or in the bushes, you liked to shit right on the walkway we used every day. It of course attracted flies and smelled terrible. You could have shit somewhere else but instead you shit right where we always walked.

So we moved you to the back and you shit and pissed all over the concrete back there and it attracted flies also.

You developed some sort of jaw ailment that made noise each time you chewed.

You grew batty. You meowed a lot. Your meow became this raspy, incessant repeating meow. “Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr.” You always needed to be fed. You would escape the yard and wander around the neighbor’s yards. You would find wherever we were in the house and sit under the floorboards where we were and… “Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr.”

Your hair began falling out.

People began to recoil at the sight of you.

Friends began telling me I needed to put you down and that you were obviously suffering. You were still eating so that was good. And how did they know if you were suffering?

And then last week you didn’t come to dinner and we assumed you went off to die. But the smell that showed up on Saturday night proved there was no wandering off at all. Romy found you and cried. I didn’t.

I had to crawl under the house and get you. I brought an old cotton sheet and just grabbed you hrough it and rolled you up in it like a joint.

We buried you in the backyard. Romy insisted on digging the hole. We planted a century plant on top of you. Lit a candle out by your grave and it stayed lit all night in spite of a cold, damp mist in the air.

You raped. You pissed. You shit. You puked. You harassed. You slept. You scratched. You didn’t love me and I didn’t love you back.

And you lived for 17 years.

Romy believes that pets are our charge and that above all we must always do what we can to care for them. I believe that they are there to bring us joy and love and comfort and they should never cease to do so. You were certainly the former and I think you knew it or were too dumb to know otherwise. You were not the latter for damn sure.

The most significant thing about you was you were indeed a living link to a person I no longer am. I was 23 when I got you and am 40 now. You represented a span of my life that perhaps rivals even my childhood in the amount of change and growth I went through. You were the first attempt at responsibility I really undertook all on my own and I saw it through despite just how ambivalent I was toward you. With a lot of help from friends and family we saw it through for you.

You little fuck.

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