Cats Working May be Haunted

By Karen

Yesterday was a big day here, but as in any suspense tale, I’m going to work backward to describe it.

Last night, after an afternoon under the bed (why in a minute), Tony must have been feeling his 31 days of fame waning as Mr. July on the Richmond Animal League’s calendar.

After dinner, he threw himself down on the living room floor to contemplate his next career move and wonder if he had peaked too soon…

“Could I really be a has-been at 2 years old?”

But with Tony’s looks, brains and charisma, he has nothing to worry about. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.

In the afternoon, a crew I’ve been waiting nearly two months for finally showed up to take down the dead tree in the front yard.

In the spring, I worried when that tree was a few weeks late putting out leaves, and its trunk looked paler than the others. Then when all the new leaves immediately began to die, I had to pull the plug on it or risk it taking out my office and the kitchen in a storm.

I never watch when I lose a tree, but I think it came down in sections because there was never a big crash. A lot of moss in the yard was torn up where I guess the pieces fell.

Nevertheless, it was a noisy business. Roc sat calmly in the living room with me through it all. Max stayed in the Man Cave and Tony went under the bed.

Grinding the stump turned out to be the worst of it. This is now our view from the big kitchen window. The red circle is where the tree was…

Now all is sawdust where once there was moss.

My yard guy isn’t returning my calls about cleaning up. Here’s the mess from the walk, facing the house. This isn’t a situation that’s just going to heal itself over time…

The rocks strewn about were the border of a patch of daffodils and azaleas, now a wasteland.

But the day began in my bedroom with something I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it myself. This bookcase is one of six around the house and stands opposite my bed. It holds mostly New Age books from my 30s, as well as other prized volumes, like the copy of Little Women I got at Orchard House, Louisa May Alcott’s home in Concord, Massachusetts, where she wrote it…

The corner shelf holds some of my vast cats collection.

Notice the arrow pointing to a book I pulled out on the bottom shelf, just to show you where it came from. It was actually on the shelf in line with the rest. Since Roc refused to participate in a reenactment, the black stuffy cat on the floor is his stand-in, and a waterbowl is to its left.

Anyway, I was making the bed and Roc was getting a drink. He turned to walk past the bookcase when that book suddenly flew out and fell on the floor in front of him. Roc jumped back, but then calmly went around it and hunkered down in the opposite corner to watch ME.

Did he know or see who did that?

It was just like the poltergeist activity you see on Paranormal: Caught on Camera.

The cats never bother that bookcase, and I haven’t touched it myself in months. This is the book that flew out…

Why this book? Does the title have any significance?

It happens to be the last book I shelved there, unfinished because I didn’t like it. I felt a little tingly as I put it back.

There’s no way that book moved on its own. No book has EVER fallen off that shelf before. So, what was it? It couldn’t have been the spirit of the tree, because this happened hours before either of us knew it was going down that day.

BONUS: Cats Working reader Glamour Milk uncovered this (possibly) maiden interview with Anthony Bourdain in 1995. He was just 39, pre-thumb ring, pre-Les Halles, beginning his writing career as a novelist with Bone in the Throat)…

On “Connie Martinson Talks Books,” August 1995

He wrote a second novel, Gone Bamboo, before he hit it big with Kitchen Confidential. You have to download the interview here…

But it’s well worth it, especially in hindsight, for what he says about loyalty and betrayal.

Many thanks to Glamour Milk for her online sleuthing. Morgan Neville might have been interested in this for Roadrunner, had he uncovered it.

The same link includes another 2002 interview about A Cook’s Tour. Notice Tony’s marked increase in confidence, sophistication and gray hair. Also, the thumb ring.

21 Responses to Cats Working May be Haunted

  1. Mary Hunter says:


    So interesting that you have a ghost. Also interesting that this is the first encounter when I assume you’ve lived there a while. My husband and I lived in a place for a short while that was haunted. If you’ve ever encountered one you are a believer. We also have a poltergeist at the store where I work. Lights on and off, doors closing, etc. It happens mainly up in the tailor shop upstairs. I think it is the former tailor. He worked there until shortly before passing away at age 74. I think he’s mad he’s not still there working!

    Great pics of Tony, as usual!

    Keep us informed of other paranormal activity. Do you think it has anything to do with the tree coming down?

  2. Mary Hunter says:

    Sorry, I didn’t read the comment about the tree.

  3. catsworking says:

    Mary, I’ve been in this house for 34 years, and the only spirits I’ve ever seen were cats, mostly Fred and Yul. They both seemed to come back as orbs in photos the Christmases after they died to check out the cat that replaced them (Cole and Max, respectively). I’ve never caught orbs on ANY other of the thousands of photos I’ve taken here. And I didn’t see the orbs in the moment.

    Once I was standing at the kitchen sink when a cat rubbed against my leg. I looked down and it was white, so I thought it was Adele, but a minute later I thought WTF? and found her asleep in the rocker in the living room. So that was Fred’s ghost.

    Rex once came back and distinctly tried to jump on the bed while I was napping just like he always did, but I haven’t felt him in years. I think they eventually move on.

    Yul was a mischief-maker in life, and he DID have a thing for that bookcase. Specifically, a stuffed cat that still sits on top of it. He would stand on the bedroom desk, snag that cat without tipping over the bookcase, and I’d find the cat somewhere in the house. Once its little bead stuffing started coming out, I hid it in the closet for 6-9 months, thinking Yul would forget about it. But the day I put it back out, he nabbed it and took it to the living room. So, he must have been checking for that cat every day it was missing.He was diabolical, but in a good way.

    But Yul never pulled books off the shelves. For some reason, I had a feeling a human was behind that, since it was precisely one book and none around it were disturbed, not like a cat just grabbing, but I have no sense of who it could be.

    When Roc was younger, he used to love pulling certain books (about vampires) off the big bookcase in my office, but it was always a block of them. This time, he wasn’t within reach the bookcase when the book came off the shelf. I happened to be standing there facing him when it happened and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

    Occasionally, I hear loud crashes and think the cats have destroyed something, but then can’t find anything disturbed. Maybe that’s something I’ve ignored. Max likes to slam doors upstairs.

    But now I’m on high alert for anything that seems out of place. From Roc’s nonchalant reaction to having a book thrown in his path, I feel like it must be something he’s OK with. So that’s reassuring.

  4. GlamourMilk says:

    Yep, Morgan Neville should have contacted me for research purposes – lol.
    It is fun to watch such an old interview. I imagine there aren’t any earlier ones, though I’d love to see them if there were.
    He’s almost like a whole other person in1995 than later when he got famous. I guess with being succesful, came another level of confidence could be a bit arrogant, certainly cocky, at times. To see that milder version of him makes me think he was someone who had to work at his confidence, which is hard to believe when you see him in later years.
    So, was all that bravado more of a front than his actual personality? I guess, a bit of both.

  5. catsworking says:

    GlamourMilk, I fixed your typo for you. 🙂

    Since Bone in the Throat was his first novel and he was a nobody, you may have found the first televised interview he ever did. I thought it was good of him to go back seven years later after he WAS famous with Kitchen Confidential, had done many interviews and been on TV, to sit with that same woman for A Cook’s Tour. It wasn’t like her show was going to really goose book sales, not that he needed her to at that point.

    The two brief times I met him when he wasn’t “working,” he was quiet and rather self-effacing. The first time was when we met Ottavia at a DC fundraiser. He let her do all the talking. Then he went up on stage and became the Bourdain you see on TV.

    The second time was the following year at the same venue, same event. He was on stage before the event started, picked me out of the audience, and came bounding up the steps to kiss me on the cheek and tell me that Ottavia couldn’t make it because the baby was sick. Very low-key, but I’m sure everybody around us was going, WTF? What’s he doing talking to HER?

    He definitely developed a performance mode that was very different from his normal demeanor.

    I’ll never forgot the one time he appeared on Bill Maher’s show. He was the final guest of the evening, and when he came out to join Maher and the panel, he was holding his latest book, whatever that was. Maher never mentioned it and was a total dick to him, mostly ignoring him. Tony basically just sat there in silence, trying to make the best of it, when he would have been justified to walk off.

    Clearly, he thought he’d been invited on to discuss his book, but Maher set him up to make it look like Bourdain was wanting a plug that Maher had no intention of giving him. It was humiliating, and he never did Bill Maher again.

    If Tony really was full of himself, I’m sure he could have worked in some hilarious, withering put-downs that would have put that truly arrogant little twerp Maher in his place.

  6. John Villeneuve says:

    Thanks for that, very special indeed.

  7. Randi says:

    That book coming out of the shelf on its own is strange. If it wasn’t Roc who pulled it out, then AB may have told a ghost to remind you of your skills for writing… he probably thinks you should write another book, Karen! Or it could have been sliding out while the tree came down.
    I watched the interview with AB. He seemed relaxed and honest and I so enjoyed it. 🙂

  8. catsworking says:

    Randi, the tree came down many hours after the book thrust itself at Roc. I only knew the tree was coming down about 30 minutes before it did, when the crew called to say they were on their way.

    Roc or any cat couldn’t have pulled that book out on their own because 1) It’s packed in pretty tight with the other books, and 2) It’s almost as high as the shelf, so if you just pull on the top of it, it tips a bit but won’t fall out. A short book would fall out, but I think that whole row is full of tall books.

    Some force in front of, or behind, that book had to pull or push it more than 6 inches.

    I don’t think it’s Bourdain-related because wherever he is right now, I’m sure he’s too busy with other things to give me a thought.

  9. Mary Hunter says:

    How very interesting, Karen, about your former cats and their spirits! I’ve not yet encountered that, but Scott had a similar experience with a cat he had who had passed on–he heard her little bell in the middle of the night!

    I agree with Randi, that it could be Bourdain. You have cultivated many Bourdain afficianados, and I’m sure in life he appreciated you. and it was recently you saw the new movie about him. Something to think about!

  10. catsworking says:

    Mary, I’m still keeping my eyes open for anything else to happen. One reason I don’t think it was Bourdain is that Roc wasn’t bothered by it. If an unfamiliar spirit were there, I think he would have shown fear or curiosity, but after being startled by the book coming at him, he just stepped around it like it happened all the time.

    Occasionally, I will feel a cat snuggling up against me in bed, distinctly enough that I will reach out to pet it or turn to see who it is, only to find there is no cat on the bed. I don’t know who that might be, because just about all my cats were snugglers at times.

    I’m fine with ghost cats because I know they don’t mean any harm. But a human ghost would be a different matter altogether.

  11. MorganLF says:

    GlamourMilk thanks for that I interview, thot I’d seen them all. Tho by the time Tony had done this he’d groomed his accent (from Jersey/NYC) to his recognizable smooth baritone.

    Karen, I posted here years ago abt how infuriated I was with the Bill Mahr non interview. Bill was jealous of Tony and sought to diminish him, by ignoring him, never mentioned the book that Tony was nervously clutching..asking only the perfunctory‘what’s the worst thing you ever ate’…Tony handled it like a gent.
    I remember how upset I was that at the second event we went to.

    I missed Tony running over and giving you a kiss. I was stuffing myself from all the fabulous food venues…word here, this event is not cheap in fact a few hundred dollars, it’s a charity thing. The first year I barely ate..I was so fascinated by Ottavia sitting there talking with you and Tony periodically coming over to us that I think we went out for a burger after, we definitely had a few martinis…just marveling at how cool they were. So year two, I ate my way around the place twice.
    Anyway you are right, of the times I met him he never had handlers, was self effacing and sweet to me, always with a smile and a kiss on the cheek..
    Rapier wit..the way only a really smart person can be, I so miss him.
    I know, I know… I’m repeating myself.
    But y’all understand.

  12. catsworking says:

    Morgan, in the two years we attended that fundraiser, I think I maybe ate one or two bites TOTAL. I was too nervous to eat, being around Bourdain.

    Last week, Bill Maher announced he needs glasses and started wearing them. Now he looks like a shorter, grayer, Jewish Stephen Colbert, only less funny.

  13. MorganLf says:

    Full disclosure I love Bill Maher except for that day when he humiliated Tony,it was really a school kid move. But I watch him faithfully and religiously and I have to say I agree with nearly every one of his stances except that he’s very pro Israel which I will never understand because all they do is suck money from our budget and kill Palestinians while they steal and occupy land.

  14. catsworking says:

    Morgan, I can’t say that I love Bill Maher, but I also watch him faithfully and do agree with most of his positions. But I did I think he went too far harping on about how fat people have brought COVID on themselves. I never paid attention to him on Israel, but if he’s pro-, he loses me there, too.

    This BS of supporting everything Israel does, “just because,” has really got to stop. They don’t need our financial support, and the Palestinians don’t deserve to be persecuted and occupied.

    But at least they finally didn’t kick that blood-thirsty fucker Netanyahu out of office. With any luck, next stop for him is prison.

    PS: Since you must get HBO, I think Roadrunner begins streaming on HBO Max tomorrow (Friday, 8/6). If you get HBO, Max is free.

  15. feijicha says:

    Bill Maher has lost me in the last couple of years. He’s turning into the “get off my lawn!” guy every time he mocks the younger generation simplybecause they aren’t his generation, and when he can only ever make cultural references that are over 30 years old. I still agree with a number of his stances, but he has become embarassingly outdated with his sexist jokes and his mocking of fat people or his “but I have black friends” unwillingness to even entertain the idea of white privilege.

  16. catsworking says:

    feijicha, I think you put it very well on Bill Maher. He DOES seem like a cranky old man these days. And I think in his news glasses, with his hair combed straight back, he looks a lot like Jack Benny (talk about an obscure old reference!) although Jack never let his hair go gray.

    I was just doing a crossword puzzle about TV and I was nailing all the clues about sitcoms that were on in the ’60s. I’m a fossil! 🙂

  17. GlamourMilk says:

    Hi Cats/Karen –

    I saw an article on/interview with Tony on this page:

    He’s asked what he thinks of certain things/people – one is AA Gill:

    ‘NQN: A.A. Gill
    * Anthony Bourdain:* You know back in ’86, ’87 I was still working as a cook and I managed to squeak out this crime novel which has disappeared off the shelves in the states in about 10 minutes…’

    This answer puzzled me. Did Tony release a crime novel already in the late eighties? Or did the writer of the article get the years wrong, and Tony actually said ’96/97′? (This would make the most sense). Or something else?

    Do you know anything about this? I’ve never heard of Tony having published anything in the eighties. Surely it must be a mistake???

  18. catsworking says:

    Glamour, Bourdain wrote two crime novels before he wrote Kitchen Confidential. Looking at them right now…

    Bone in the Throat was first, and it was published in 1995. Gone Bamboo was published in 1997.

    In 1986, he would have been 30 years old and to my knowledge, wasn’t trying to write for publication, except that some early short manuscripts have surfaced that were floating around. I believe he had a story published in some obscure magazine, but can’t remember its name or when that was.

  19. catsworking says:

    Glamour, I just read the interview on your link and found the quote from Bourdain you mentioned:

    Anthony Bourdain:* You know back in ’86, ’87 I was still working as a cook and I managed to squeak out this crime novel which has disappeared off the shelves in the states in about 10 minutes. It was published in Scotland and Adrian was a ferocious advocate for the book.

    I think I may have found what he was referring to. OK, so the two novels I mentioned earlier were published first, in the U.S. Then Kitchen Confidential, which was a bestseller. Then A Cook’s Tour, in 2001, to go with his first TV show.

    THEN he published The Bobby Gold Stories: A Novel, in 2002. It was initially published in Great Britain (being typeset in Scotland), and then picked up in 2003 by a U.S. publisher.

    Bobby Gold is really a series of short stories about Bobby Gold. Maybe he first wrote those in the ’80s before he tried his hand at a full length novel.

    This is a good trivia question. Why did Anthony Bourdain first sign with a foreign publisher for his fifth book? I bet Nancy would know.

  20. GlamourMilk says:

    Cats –

    So maybe he really WAS published in the late eighties (but nothing came of it at the time and it was such few copies that no one really knew/noticed)? I wonder if there are first editions available of that book (Bobby Gold?). If so, they must be rare 🙂

    Still haven’t read Bobby Gold. I wanted to read Gone Bamboo this month but I’m still struggling with getting through Dune. I know it’s a (supposed) masterpiece but I find it tedious to read. I could just give up on it but I got a bit stubborn about attempting to finish it before moving on to other novels 🙂

  21. catsworking says:

    Glamour, Bourdain had no books published in the 1980s. Maybe a short story or several in obscure publications.

    Yes, I would think first editions of The Bobby Gold Stories published in the U.K. would be rare, since it probably didn’t have a very large print run.

    I haven’t read any of his fiction in ages, but I do remember it being funny and I would like to reread it all.

    When I was young, I used to force myself to finish every book I started, but eventually decided life is too short to waste my time when I could be reading something that would be time better spent, so I learned to abandon what didn’t interest me.

    I’ve never read Dune, so I can’t comment. I guess the only “fantasy” series I’ve ever been hooked on were tales of Camelot and Arthurian legend (40 years ago), and then Star Trek, but only the first two iterations with Captains Kirk and Picard. I read a ton of those novels and recently donated them to some cause I don’t recall.

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