Chapter 115: COVID Chronicles

August 3, 2020

By Tony

Day 145

I’m a Philanthropist & Other FYIs About Me

Karen adopted me last year from the Richmond Animal League no-kill shelter and the rest, as they say, is history

Well, Karen has entered me in RAL’s 2021 Calendar Contest. She says I’m the most photogenic. Twelve animals who raise the most for RAL will get a professional photo shoot and appear on a month’s page.

I started in fourth place and was a shoo-in. But the competition is hot now with 110 contenders. Last time we checked, I’d dropped to 22nd. Some of these animals are AMAZINGLY well-networked (or rich) and have raised huge sums.

Max and Roc (and the late Adele, Cole and Yul) all came from RAL, so our ties run deep and we want to help RAL kitties be healthy and find forever homes.

We’re a little embarrassed to ask for your support because things are tough for everyone right now, but if you could help — even just a little bit — please visit my page and make a donation by August 22.

We’d appreciate that SO MUCH. If I can claw my way back into the top 12, having my name, Tony Bourdain, in the calendar will be a tribute to my namesake, and I’ll look totes adorbs doing it, right?…

As thanks, I’ll sharing some little-known personal facts about myself with you…

  • I don’t know how to be petted. Roc and Max take it like pros and even purr. But I I’ve got this habit of biting the petter. Not hard, but my teeth have a nervous tic.
  • On the other hand, I want to be petted. I sidle up to Karen and push my head under her hand until she gets it, then when she starts petting me, I bite her.
  • My litter box etiquette is impeccable. I squat to pee, always cover my business and I (usually) exit carefully to avoid litter scatter.
  • My favorite playmate these days isn’t Roc, but a rock. It’s red. When Karen threw away the dirt from her failed chives experiment, I pulled this rock from the bottom of the pot and we’ve been inseparable. I like how it skitters across the kitchen floor…

  • I’m into people cheese. When Karen makes a sandwich for lunch, my slice of turkey must come with crumbles of Havarti, Muenster, Swiss, Gruyere, Colby-Jack, Cheddar or even Feta. I’m not picky.
  • My next go-to people snack is shrimp. I’m also not averse to white meat rotisserie chicken.
  • I have a brother. We were brought to RAL together. That’s all I know about my family of origin.
  • I make requests with utmost delicacy. When Karen’s doing her daily steps in front of the TV and I’d rather she waved a stick toy for me, I’ll tap her shoulder from the kitty perch ever so lightly, no claws, and wear my most needy look when she turns around. Roc and Max just meow incessantly.
  • I’m the champion bug-hunter. Roc’s lethal if a bug throws itself at him, and Max is a pacifist, but I’m a HUNTER. My favorite catches, because they’re fast and try to flee three-dimensionally, are spiders, flies and the occasional wasp.
  • From my first night here, I’ve been obsessed with a blankie Karen considers an embarrassing failure. She crocheted it for Adele from thick baby yarn, but nothing about that idea worked out. It even got holes. But every night, Karen folds it beside her so I can knead and suckle it. (Yes, I still suckle. I lost my mom at 6 weeks, I’ve got issues.) To me, this blankie will always be beautiful…

Chapter 87: COVID Chronicles

June 23, 2020

By Karen

Day 104

Destroying Statues Has Stopped Being Cute

I sincerely hope the peaceful protests of the past several weeks bring about meaningful progress in racial inequality and end police brutality. But in too many places, protests are taking on a Taliban tinge that threaten to undo every advance being made.

Even worse, they’re giving Trump’s cult justification to whip out their arsenals and fight back. This fulfills Trump’s fondest wish on earth — to see Americans slaughter each other in the streets. MAGA!

Take Richmond, Virginia. The other night, protesters pulled down a minor statue dedicated to the First Virginia Regiment. This was a militia formed in the mid-1700s, before the REVOLUTIONARY War.

This act of supreme historical ignorance — do you know anybody who bitches about us winning independence from England? — makes these protesters indistinguishable from Trump’s brain-free cult members.

In New York, they’re taking down a statue of Teddy Roosevelt because it offends blacks — and Native Americans.

Agreed, Native Americans have gotten the shaft at every turn. But doesn’t their plight deserve separate attention and correction, rather than tossing them into the already overflowing grievance pot, like some last-ditch seasoning?

A statue of George Washington in Portland, Oregon, was pulled down. He owned slaves, but he also won the Revolutionary War and until now was the “Father of Our Country” because he played a major role in setting up our democratic republic.

A statue of Ulysses S. Grant was torn down in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Hello? Grant’s leadership WON the Civil War. Somebody gave him a slave once, but he freed the person.

Also at Golden Gate, a statue of Francis Scott Key, who composed our National Anthem — which, admittedly, Kurt Vonnegut accurately described as “gibberish sprinkled with question marks” — was pulled down because he owned slaves.

For good measure, those protesters also spray-painted a statue of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, who has no dog in this fight whatsoever.

In London, protesters went after a statue of Winston Churchill. So now the Brits have a problem with winning World War II?

Where does this insanity end? Next should we implode the Washington Monument (and Mount Vernon), the Jefferson Memorial (and Monticello) and Mount Rushmore?

The protesters who have managed to stay focused on the Civil War are now going after the generals’ horses.

And that is when I must clearly and irrevocably state, ENOUGH IS A FUCKING ‘NOUGH.

It’s all fun and games until some protester’s kid gets crushed by a horse or impaled on its falling leg.

In Richmond, protesters just tried to pull down the J.E.B. Stuart statue on horseback, and in D.C., they went after Andrew Jackson and his horse.

J.E.B. Stuart. Photo Phil Riggan, Richmond On the James blog

Horses were as exploited and abused during the Civil War as anybody. In fact, it would be entirely fitting to remove the generals’ statues and leave only their horses on the pedestals. The horses are noble works of art, and they were never out to kill anybody, own anybody or tear the country in half.

Chapter 85: COVID Chronicles

June 21, 2020

By Tony

Day 102

Belmont Recap & Funny Business in the Holly Tree

For my first time ever seeing a horse race, I’m pretty proud of my predictions for the Belmont Stakes yesterday. I gave Tiz the Law the benefit of the doubt, since he was the humans’ favorite, and they were right. He won.

But there I was, glued to the screen when MY favorite, Fore Left, shifted into high gear and stunned everybody on the track when he looked for a moment like he was going to pull off a big upset…

Here was the leader board…

Unfortunately, Lefty’s boldness motivated the other horses and some of them overtook him. I’m glad his jockey let him relax back to 9th place because it made no sense at that point to run him to death.

One of the horses that charged in the end was my other favorite, Max Player. He really showed his stuff in the stretch and finished third!

At home, we had some excitement, too. It started when Karen noticed some dead branches on the holly tree outside the kitchen window. When she went to investigate, she found this nest…

There’s this cardinal who’s been giving Roc and me the stink-eye from that tree for about a week now. Little did we know he was shacking up out there…

Turns out he’s married. When Karen was tugging on the dead branches before she saw the nest, he and his wife were having a fit, flapping and squawking. Here he is again (top) and his bride…

She doesn’t look anything like a cardinal, so we thought it was a mixed marriage (do birds do that?). But Karen looked it up and girl cardinals are gray. Also, cardinals are monogamous and keep the same mate for life, so rather than the carefree playboybird he made us think he was, he’s spoken for.

The wife plopped down in the nest as soon as Karen came back into the house. This is their mating season, so she’s probably hatching a litter out there. The nest is too high for Karen to peek into. Cardinals are born in about 12 days, so Roc and I are keeping an eye out for a sudden population explosion.

Chapter 84: COVID Chronicles

June 20, 2020

By Tony

Day 101

Tony’s Debut on the Triple Crown Beat

I never knew Adele, but Max and Roc tell me she loved horses and the Triple Crown races — far more than she ever loved THEM, they believe.

Karen says Adele picked some winners, like Animal Kingdom (2011 Kentucky Derby) and Exaggerator (2016 Preakness). Adele even Skyped this funny interview with Exaggerator.

Adele would have HATED what COVID has done to the Triple Crown this year.

Today, Belmont is the first race of the season instead of the last. (NBC, 3:00 p.m. ET, post time 5:42) No fans will be there. It’s only 1 1/8 mile instead of the usual 1 1/2 mile. I understand 1 1/2 miles really pushes the horses, especially when they’re pooped from running in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, all so close together. But this year they’re not, so Belmont is more like a normal race.

Because I’m the TV-loving cat around here, Max and Roc agreed I’m most fit to carry on Adele’s tradition. I think they’re lazy, or afraid she’ll haunt them if they do it and screw up. Or hazing the new kitty.

So I’ve been cramming to learn everything, especially what “odds” are. Thankfully, this Belmont has only 10 horses.

Humans think Tiz the Law has the best shot at winning (odds 6-5) because he’s won four of his five races. But he drew post position 8, which means slightly farther around the track.

Since I’m new to this, I’m not saying Tiz the Law won’t win. But I’ve always been an underdogkitty myself, so I’ve paid more attention to the less likely horses. If they can beat Tiz, it’s a win for all of us.

One I found is Max Player. Why? Look at his name. I’m nothing if not loyal to family. But he’s not some half-digested rubber band I just pulled out of my butt, either. He’s won two of his three races. Today he’s in pp 3 with jockey Joel Rosario and odds 15-1.

Watch his most recent race at Aqueduct on February 4 and see for yourself how amazing Max is…

I’ll admit this next is a dangle from my kitty perch, but I’m picking Fore Left to win (pp 6, jockey Jose Ortiz, odds 30-1). It’s not as crazy as it sounds, and here’s a human who agrees.

Fore Left is the most experienced and worldly horse. He’s won three of nine races, most recently the UAE Two Thousand Guineas on February 6 in Dubai…

And here’s Fore Left in June 2019 winning the Tremont Stakes…

All I’m saying is, if Tiz the Law manages to get closer to the rail and finds himself with a faceful of Fore Left tail, he might as well hang up his horseshoes, he’s glue.

(Am I getting the lingo, or are Max and Roc yanking my tail again?)

Almost forgot: Adele always blessed a race with, “May all the horses run a good race and cross the finish line safely.”

That goes for me, too.

Chapter 83: COVID Chronicles

June 19, 2020

By Karen

Day 100

Forget Waldo. Where’s Roc? & Tony’s Learning Ponies

This morning, out of the blue, Roc decided to climb onto my bookcase (which he hasn’t done since he was a kitten) and post his own version of “Where’s the Cat?” that trended on Twitter this week…

Max’s recent willingness to claim new spaces may be rubbing off. But since Roc doesn’t have a subtle bone in his body, I think you found him pretty easy to spot. And seeing him on that bookcase reminds me I really could tidy things up over there.

Here is the much more clever photo from Twitter that inspired Roc, posted by @KateHinds. Can you find the cat? I couldn’t…

Photo @KateHinds Twitter

Hint: focus on the TV nook.

That’s it for today. We’re busy coaching Tony for his first big horse race tomorrow, the Belmont Stakes. Last year, he wasn’t even born when Triple Crown season began.

Tony’s in the spirit, excited to learn about racing, and practicing typing with his oversized paws. I’ve been helping him do his homework on the horses, and he’ll share his picks for the big race in the morning.

Chapter 63: COVID Chronicles

May 30, 2020

By Karen

Day 80

Richmond’s Imploding While Trump Stokes Racism & Wildlife Pays Us a Visit

Downtown Richmond saw some demolition this morning…

That was the 40-year-old, 340-foot Dominion Energy building. Dominion is the electric company. As the cloud enveloped other buildings, it was like watching the Running of the Dust, with dumb gawkers in the nearby streets fleeing on foot to escape suffocation. Good times!

Last night, downtown got violence over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Protesters torched at least one bus and a car, and they did some looting.

I live out in the ‘burbs, so I was far from all this action, thankfully. I think people are just fed up with what a shit show life has become on every level and seize any excuse to rage.

Trump had to pour more gasoline on the fire today by proclaiming, “MAGA loves the black people”…

…in essence, he admits MAGA is a whites-only cult. His racism bubbled through all his macho nonsense about how Minneapolis should handle its riots.

He talks tough now, but last night he cowered in the White House like a little girl while 2,000 people protested George Floyd’s murder out front and then marched to the nearby Trump Hotel. He’s lucky that’s still standing, but possibly only because it’s built of stone.

Back in my neighborhood, the tree my neighbors had cut down yesterday left a massive stump, and I’m not seeing any signs of disease on it…

Aha! As I was discreetly taking this photo from my office window, the neighbors came out and studied the stump. Maybe they’re wondering if they got ripped off because the tree only needed a dead limb removed. The day before it — literally — all went down, I did notice one of them talking to a guy who stopped by in an unmarked pickup truck, pointing up at the tree.

That’s how tree scammers operate. “We’re doing some work in your neighborhood and noticed this big fella’s about to crush your house and cars any minute. We can save your life and give you a great price since our equipment is already right here. When can we get started?”

Yesterday, Tony and Roc spied a visitor out on the deck…

I couldn’t get too close because it saw me and scampered off, but I did zoom in…

It’s their old friend Squirrely! Well, probably not THE Squirrely who used to nap on the railing of the old deck, but one of his descendants or cousins.

That’s about as exciting as it’s been around here these days.

When you were a kid, did you ever make gum wrapper chains? This video uses Starburst® wrappers, but it’s the same concept…

I once made a Guinness Book-worthy chain. I was never a gum chewer, but would find wrappers on the ground everywhere. I wonder whatever happened to that chain? Hmm…

I brought it up because last night I got the bright idea of making a chain out of the snack bags I’ve been tying in bows for Tony to play with. I found a few under the furniture and got it started…

It’s meant to be a cat toy. We’ll see if the kitties agree.

Chapter 62: COVID Chronicles

May 29, 2020

By Karen

Day 79

Another Tree Gone & Chihuahuas ROCK! (Shh… don’t tell the cats!)

Woke up to chainsaws and a wood chipper roaring suspiciously close by. Roc and Tony were dying for me to get up and open the blinds so they could see what was going on. The house across the street was losing a large tree in front.

I saw them grind up a big dead section, so maybe it needed to come down, but I hate it when any tree goes. Without that shade, they’re going to love their air conditioning bills this summer.

The house next door to them had EVERY tree removed by its latest owner. She’s the only one on the block with an actual lawn. But I wonder why anybody who prefers the prairie would buy a house in a neighborhood with a mature forest. Her house isn’t any safer; lots of neighbors’ trees could still fall on it.

Anyway, my not-chives are five days in the pot and coming along. They have a new leader, and the new runt has a microscopic shoot…

I’ve tried to determine the difference between chives vs. scallions vs. green onions vs. spring onions and, as far as I’m concerned, they’re interchangeable. Chives apparently aren’t as oniony. The others have thicker green stalks.

According to the link above and, green onions and scallions are different names for the same thing. Spring onions are mature scallions/green onions.

I guess if what I’m growing ever gets pink flowers, I’ve got chives. Since I only use the greens as I’d use chives, that’s what I’m calling them. The differences between the others are all about the bulbs’ size and taste. Some people who cook with scallions throw away the greens altogether. Since my bulbs are staying underground, what kind they are is moot to me.

If I’ve never mentioned it before, I have a thing for talking animals. I love them all. For a COVID escape last night, I watched Disney’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva la Fiesta! (now on HBO Family)…

It stars Chloe, the original pampered Beverly Hills Chihuahua. She’s married to Papi Cortez, a scrappy Chihuahua who grew up on the mean streets of Mexico. They have five puppies, four boys and a girl, and belong to a young couple looking for a new place to live. In exchange for free room and board, the humans are hired for menial jobs at a posh hotel that caters to guests with dogs because the hotel manager wants to use glamorpuss Chloe for marketing.

The story is all about the dogs, with the humans as subplots. It’s filled with music, romance, mystery, drama, adventure and lots of laughs. The highlight is a colorful and joyous canine quinceañera that Papi hosts for his little girl, Rosa.

The amazingly talented cast is real dogs and they talk. What’s not to love?

I’m a cat person, but I enjoyed this sweet movie so much, it’s one I could watch again and again.


Chapter 38: COVID Chronicles

May 5, 2020

By Karen

Day 55

Texting and TV Don’t Mix & Roc Demonstrates MMA

Last night I caught up on Outlander (Yay! Briana and Roger are gone. But you know it can’t last.) But next week is the damn season finale. Never fails. Just as I get into it again, it’s gone for another YEAR. It might as well be called Brigadoon.

So then I binged on three episodes of a new HBO “black comedy” called RUN because it stars some favorites: Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie), with appearances by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) and Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife).

It’s another example of how the bar for “comedy” has dropped very, very low, unless irony is passing for humor these days. Not to say that the show is bad. It’s just not funny.

They’re not calling RUN a “limited series,” but I don’t see how it can last past six episodes. The premise is, after 17 years with no contact, two former college sweethearts follow through on a pact they made that if they ever text each other the word “RUN,” they will abandon their lives and meet in Grand Central Station to travel around the country together.

So, Harry Meets Sally and they remake The Fugitive.

This show is full of my biggest pet peeve about TV — aside from being sick of watching people talk at their computer screens.

Too much of RUN’s crucial plot points lazily rely on smartphones. Talking, checking, hacking, glimpsing and, most infuriating, TEXTING.

I don’t know how people (like my parents) watch TV without DVR capabilities. Almost every time there’s a fucking text — always flashed too small and too quickly to read — I have to back it up, freeze it, and walk over to the TV to see it.

Yes, I know that’s life these days, but you can see people on smartphones everywhere. It has zero entertainment value.

Meanwhile (to borrow Stephen Colbert’s schtick), I’ve been forced to abandon midway the Julian Fellowes series Belgravia. Turns out, I DON’T get Epix because Verizon cut me off on April 30.

Get this: Verizon made this grand gesture of opening to everyone 80+ channels for April. I found out when they emailed about it on April 22. That’s right. “Verizon is proud to announce you had ALL these free extra channels since April 1. Enjoy the last nine days, Sucka!”

Meanwile, even the kitties seem to be seeking fresh ways to amuse themselves. Tony stepped on a tiny ant he caught marching toward his bowls. After I got rid of it, he staked out the area, poised to pounce, to make sure none of its buddies showed up (they didn’t)…

And Roc came meowing from the bedroom carrying that bird toy. I don’t know what it’s done to piss off Roc, but he gave it another thrashing for about 10 minutes while Tony studied his moves. Here’s a small clip…

When it comes to Roc venting his pent-up aggression, I say better the bird than poor Max.

Cats Working Shares Christmas Wishes

December 24, 2019

By Karen

Tony’s been with us for eight weeks, and he’s made himself at home. I often catch Max and Roc gossiping about the new kid behind his back…

The big boys are also not above tag teaming the little guy when they think they can get the best of him — but they never do. Tony always finds a way out…

I’ve found that having a cat named Tony Bourdain to supervise my cooking is almost like having the human still with us. That is, if Anthony Bourdain ever had big paws and no thumbs, a super-long tail he swished through all the food, and a terrible habit of leaping onto the counters.

At Thanksgiving, Tony didn’t let my cranberry relish go into the oven until he made sure I’d used enough sugar….

Like his namesake, my Tony also loves French cuisine, never above trying to steal my breakfast croissants…

We’re having a low-key Christmas this year, but Max and Roc are excited and have been filling Tony’s ears with tales of what’s in store because this is his first one. They’ve got him a little freaked out by the thought of a giant kitty coming down our chimney…

Because Christmas got crammed in so tight with Thanksgiving this year, I didn’t put up the big tree with all the cat ornaments, so the kitties have been making do with our little fiber optic tree…

Roc enjoys hanging out with the tree during the day — whenever he can snag Max’s rocker unoccupied…

…Like when Max goes off to play Elf on the Shelf. Here he is, taking pointers on from Fred Astaire on how to be a debonair spy…

Now it’s Christmas Eve. The boys have all paws crossed that they’ve been good enough to earn a visit from Santa Kitty. They hope to find their stockings filled with toys and treats in the morning. We hung Adele’s stocking one more time because she’s our Christmas angel this year…

The extra things hung by Adele’s and Tony’s stockings are the 2019 Fancy Feast ornaments, which I’ve been collecting since the 1980s. They sent two this time, so it seemed they naturally should go to the kitty who left us and the kitty starting his new life with us.

All of us Cats Working wish you and yours a very happy holiday season, no matter where, how, or when you celebrate it. And thank you for sticking with us even when it’s a long stretch between posts.

Cats Working Welcomes “The New Kid”

November 17, 2019

By Max and Roc

Roc: Since we lost Adele on September 12, I’ve made Max’s life hell. I didn’t realize how much I depended on Adele for company, even though I annoyed the shit out of her most of the time. Max was taking the brunt of my frustration and loneliness.

Max: Karen was devastated to lose Adele, who’d been here over a decade before I ever showed up, which was the very day after Adele lost her BFF Yul to kidney failure. I think she wrongly connected dots on those two events and always blamed me for Yul’s departure.

It was hard to live as Adele’s prey. Once she was gone, I finally felt free and loved it. Then Roc started hounding me constantly to wrestle, which we haven’t done since he was tiny and couldn’t beat me.

Roc: Karen put up with our scrapping for about six weeks before she found me a new friend going by the name Kappa, but whom we’ll call “The Kid” for now…

Max: The Kid and one brother were six weeks old and half dead when they were brought from Northern Virginia to the Richmond Animal League. There was no info on what happened to their mother. The Kid was malnourished, dehydrated, underweight, had ear mites, an upper respiratory infection and a heart murmur. The works.

RAL got him better and neutered him before placing him in a couple of foster homes. Then blood started coming out of his butt for no reason they could find.

Karen had hoped for a younger kitten; this one was nearly five months old now and on the verge of becoming a hard-to-place teen. But he was extroverted like Roc, so Karen decided he deserved a shot at a better life.

Karen had the Man Cave upstairs equipped for the slow introduction new cats are supposed to get. But once in the front door, The Kid shot out of his carrier and explored every inch of the house while Roc and I sat there going “WTF?” The Kid even ventured out on the beams!

To impress on you how dangerous this is, here’s our living room. For us big cats, it’s routine to leap from the beams to the kitty perch or the bookcases. It’s an Evil Knievel move for a kitten. (The Kid did fall off the middle beam soon after, but miraculously missed the furniture on the way down and didn’t miss a beat.)

Roc: The Kid and I were hanging out and playing within an hour of his arrival…

Max: With the heat off me, I could watch those two knuckleheads roughhouse from my comfy chair…

Roc: The Kid did spend his first night in the Man Cave just to calm him down. I spent the night camped outside his door to make sure he was OK. Who could resist this face?

Max: The next day, he wasted no time checking out Karen’s desk, where he learned how fascinating a cursor can be…

Roc: He jumped right in helping us keep tabs on the neighborhood from the big kitchen window…

Max: I even let him help me with squirrel patrol on the deck…

Roc: It was nice to have company at meals again…

We were getting along great, but I’ll admit I was surprised when The Kid followed me into the “locker room” to watch me do my “business!”

Max: Halloween night, Karen let him try a little ‘nip. I think he liked it…

Then we all joined him on the kitchen table to get in on the action…

Roc: The Kid soon revealed an intense interest in all things culinary. Karen can’t keep him off the counter. He has no fear whatsoever of the stove, on or off…

The Kid’s first Sunday, Karen made a big pot of chili, which he had to inspect…

He was also desperate to try her homemade beer bread. That’s right. Beer…

Max: The Kid can devour a 5.5 oz. can of Friskies Shreds in about two minutes (which means stealing Roc’s half). Karen hasn’t had a plate of food he hasn’t attacked since he got here. This morning he went after her breakfast…

I know it looks like a puke on a plate, but Karen said it was Potatoes O’Brien with a couple of eggs thrown in and it was delicious.

Roc: After breakfast, The Kid stole Max’s food (Max eccentrically eats in a mine field of Karen’s junk, the coffee table)…

Max: Karen bought The Kid “Da Bee,” a stick toy which was his favorite in his second foster home. He’s already on his second bee after demolishing the first one. This is Karen’s attempt to capture him playing cute with it…

She also tried for a nice portrait of him, but he preferred to look like he’s in Witness Protection…

Roc: He’s claimed the late Cole’s favorite teddy bear. The teddy seems happy to have a kitty again…

Max: The Kid’s got salt-and-pepper fur, a long, lanky physique, a daring and adventurous spirit, and a love of the kitchen, booze and cuisines feline and human, so we’ve named him…

Tony Bourdain

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