How To Succeed in Acquiring 5,000 Kittens (Without Really Trying)

Nearly all of our family pets growing up were found in a ditch.  In the rain.

There were so many pets found in ditches in the rain, you would think our neighborhood was a Serbian battlefield in World War I.

Now, it’s important to know that “ditch in the rain” was really secret code for “not actually a ditch in the rain”.

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I can assure that this little loverboy, Oscar, snuggling with me in my acidwashed jeans, was found in neither a ditch nor the rain.

“Ditch in the rain” could mean many, many things.  It could mean that a guy outside the grocery store had a box of kittens with the word “Free” written on the side of it.

It could mean that your friend’s mom told her she had to get rid of her pet rabbit because the new baby was allergic.

Most often it meant that your friend from a few blocks over had a cat that had kittens and her father told her if she didn’t find homes for all of them by the time they were eight weeks old that he’d take them to the pound.

I’ve gotta tell you, as sad a story as the truth may have been, it wasn’t usually going to get the job done with my mother.  If you had the audacity to show up at home one evening with YET ANOTHER kitten, that kitten better have one hell of a backstory.  You damn well better had found that kitten in a ditch in the rain.

This kitten?  This kitten was no ordinary unwanted kitten.  Hell no!  This was a lone, abandoned kitten with no support system, no one to care for it.

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Gorgeous and sweet Fujita, also not found in a ditch in the rain.

This was a wet, orphaned, shivering cold kitten wandering the night alone, frightened and helpless.

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K.C., also not found in a ditch in the rain.

This kitten had been through hell, and all it wanted was to be warm and dry and held.  Isn’t that what we all want?  Just to be held and safe?  Isn’t this kitten really all of us?

This kitten was part of the huddled masses, yearning to be free as its Trans-Atlantic ship approached Ellis Island in the 1800s.

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Although one of these cats was found outside a Wendy’s, and we therefore named him “Wendell”, none of these cats were found in a ditch in the rain.

This was:

The Saddest Kitten in The World.

As Mom said, “Nope.  No more.  I am not taking in one more damn kitten!  End of discussion!” you’d hold it up to her face until it let out a teeny, tiny kitten meow.

Then the promise went as follows.  Let’s all say it together:

“Please let me just take care of her tonight, and I promise I’ll find a home for her tomorrow morning!”

This is why it’s important to bring the ditch rain kitten home in the evening.  If you brought it home at 10am, you’d have plenty of daylight hours left to pretend you were trying to find it a home.

But it’s late!  It’s dark out!  This kitten needs to spend the night!

So without fail, within a few hours and when you were getting ready for bed, you’d peek around the corner from the hallway in your Rainbow Brite nightgown to see your mother holding the kitten on her chest, petting its tiny head with her thumb and whispering, “It’s okay, little one.  It’s okay.”

Then you knew that kitten was IN.

There was no way that kitten was leaving for at least the rest of its natural life, and it would be lovingly buried in the backyard eighteen years later after a long and happy life.

The only other way you acquired pets was when your own existing ditch rain pets gave birth.  This was because most people in our neighborhood were really, really, tragically terrible about spaying and neutering.

(As an adult, I used to trap the strays in my old neighborhood and take them to the nonprofit vet clinic in our area and have them spayed or neutered, dewormed, vaccinated, and microchipped for fifty dollars a pop, but fifty bucks to anyone back then in the neighborhood may as well have been a thousand.  It’s terrible, I know, but it’s the way it was.  I’m such a big supporter of low cost spay and neuter clinics, it absolutely guts me when I think of the animal situation in our neighborhood when we were kids.)

So when you were a kid and your own cat had kittens, you had to sort of work the ol’ “ditch in the rain” in reverse.

Your mom would say, “You said you would find homes for all of these kittens!”

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Yeah, right.  Like I was giving up these kittens.

Then you would just answer, “I went door to door ALL DAY asking if anyone wanted one!  I even put up a sign down at the pond!”

You did none of these things, of course.

“I don’t know what else to do!  I think we may have to just keep them!”

Then she would say, “No.  Absolutely not.  End of discussion.”

Then you would scoop up all of the kittens, hold them towards her face in a chorus in teeny, tiny kitten meows and say, “What should I do?  Put them all in the ditch??  And I heard the weather man on the news say it was going to rain tonight!”

A Day in The Life of Filthy Mouth and Smart Mouth

Jenny and I were on the swings down at the park one afternoon, doing what most kids did on the swings, which was swing as fast and as hard as possible to see if we could go higher than the bar at the top.  The only thing that set us apart from most kids you’d typically find on the swings was that we were shouting obscene song lyrics the entire time.

Warning:  This post contains explicit lyrics.  Dun dun DUUUUUUUNN!!!!

We couldn’t help ourselves.  Jenny and I were 12 and 11, respectively, and the most exciting musical group of our young lives had broken big in South Florida, and was about to break on the national stage.  A musical group so exciting, in a couple more years the government would actually briefly ban the sale of their album in the United States.  That group was Miami’s very own 2 Live Crew.

(I could spend three or four paragraphs describing the events surrounding the rise of 2 Live Crew, but you’d do much better to look it up on Wikipedia.  That shit was crazy!)

Jenny and I, and all the other delinquents we knew, were obsessed with 2 Live Crew.  It wasn’t because we were superfans of the group; if anything, we were solid hair metal fans and we merely dabbled in what was called “rap music” at the time.  We liked LL Cool J and RUN DMC just fine, but we weren’t completely nutso over them or anything.

We were obsessed with 2 Live Crew for the same reason any kids our age were obsessed with them:  Because their songs were filled with dirty words.  Super dirty words.  Jenny and I sang those songs constantly and relentlessly.

That particular afternoon, Jenny and I had been loudly singing call-and-response rounds of, “Heeeey we want some puuuu-ssay!” from the swings for a few minutes or so before Jenny said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Wait.  Stop.  Stop swinging.  Stop.”

I dragged my bare feet across the sandy gray dirt back and forth a few times to slow myself down and came to a stop.  I looked at Jenny, concerned, and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Jenny looked puzzled and leaned the side of her face against her hand on the swing-chain.  “Do you think we should change the words since we’re into dudes?” she asked.

I pursed my lips to one side, chewing on the inside of my cheek in contemplation over the very important question Jenny had just posed.  Changing song lyrics was serious business.  All song lyrics had to be sung with exact precision or else someone might accuse you of not knowing the words, which was an unforgivable offense.  Not knowing the words meant you were a poseur, and nobody would ever let you live it down.

I replied, “Well, it’s not like we’re not taping it or anything.  Everybody already knows we know all the words.  I’m cool with changing them if you are.”

Then we started swinging again, pumping our legs as hard as we could to get back to our previously lofty heights, now singing rounds of, “Heeeey we want some DICK!”

We were charming little girls.

The flow was all wrong on the song now, though.  I looked over at Jenny and yelled, “Stop!  Hang on.  Stop swinging.”

We both slowed to a stop again.

I said, “The words don’t sound right with the melody now.  It cuts off too soon.  I think we need to add a word or syllable or something.  I mean, ‘pussy’ is two syllables.”

Jenny agreed.  We tried out a few filler words over the next couple minutes and finally came to a decision on one.  Then we started swinging again, hard and fast as we soared skyward, this time singing, “Heeeey, we want some biiiig diiiiiick!”

We had only gotten a few rounds of our new, improved song lyrics shouted out when a woman marched up next to the swings, planted her hands on her hips and yelled, “Hey!  I need to talk to you!  Both of you, get off those swings NOW!”

Jenny and I gave each other the “Uh oh” look and slowed our swinging to a stop.  We sat on the swings with our feet in the dirt, scrunching it between our toes while we sized this woman up.  She was probably around 35 years old, had a full-on lady mullet haircut, and was wearing peach stretch pants and an oversized Tweety Bird t-shirt.  She looked like every 35 year old woman in our neighborhood, except that we had never seen this particular 35 year old woman before.

Let me just interrupt for a moment here to tell you what it meant that we had never seen this woman before.  In our neighborhood everybody knew everybody, which meant that if we didn’t know you, you must be new in town or just visiting someone, and probably didn’t understand the kind of neighborhood you had just walked into.  Dirty words were going to be the least of this woman’s troubles.  Hell, the first time I was held at knife-point by a group of teenage boys I was 6 years old.  Had she ridden a bike to come and confront us that day, it would have been stolen before she even got off the damn thing.

Jenny, the braver of the two of us, spoke first.

“Can I help you?” Jenny said, as snottily as any tween girl could because, oh my god, nobody does “snotty” like tween girls.

The woman’s eyes narrowed.  “Oh, you can just hold your smart mouth right there, honey,” she replied.  “I can hear you two spouting off that filth from four blocks over!  What on God’s green Earth is wrong with the two of you?!”

I piped up, “We were just singing a song.  We didn’t write it.  Well, not most of it, anyway.”

(Look at me, age 11, already trying to finagle a writing credit for changing ‘puuuu-ssay’ to ‘biiiig diiiiiick’.  Typical.)

The woman took one hand off her hip and pointed her finger at us.

“I don’t care who wrote what – it’s FILTH!  IT’S ALL FILTH AND YOU BOTH NEED TO SHUT YOUR FILTHY MOUTHS RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!”

Assuming incorrectly that we must have been sisters (another clue that she wasn’t from our neighborhood, my sisters were notorious), she continued, “How would you like it if I go tell your mother about what you’re doing right now?  That her little girls are yelling such filthy things and have a couple of real smart mouths, too?  You know what?  That’s exactly what I’m going to do!  Where do you live?  Tell me your address!  I’m walking over there RIGHT NOW!  I bet your mother will be VERY interested to know what her little girls are doing down here, spreading filth with those filthy little mouths.”

I pointed towards the north and sheepishly said, “We live on Cheshire.  Two blocks that way.”

She said, “Oh, that does me a lot of good.  So I guess I should just go walking up and down the street to try and figure out which house?  What’s the house number, smart mouth?”

Jenny’s tone softened as she said, “It’s 4275.  We’re sorry.  Please don’t tell our mom.  Can you please, please not tell our mom?”

Jenny worked up some light, convincing tears.

“Please.  We don’t want to get in trouble.  We were just messing around.  We won’t do it again, we promise.”

The woman smirked at us and haughtily said, “You should have thought of THAT before you ran your filthy little smart mouths,” and then marched off in a huff towards Cheshire Street to rat us out.

As we watched her walk away and fade into the distance, Jenny smiled.  She lit a cigarette and said, “Pffft.  Let’s get out of here.  I’m bored.”

We shared the cigarette as walked south, in the opposite direction of Cheshire Street, to our separate homes that weren’t on Cheshire Street, neither of which were numbered 4275 (there were no houses numbered 4275 in our neighborhood).

The irony, of course, was that even if we had given that woman our real addresses, neither of our mothers would have given a rat’s ass about our shouting obscenities from the swings.  Anything less than being brought home in a police car was considered “kids just being kids” and was no cause for concern.

Before parting ways down my street I took a drag off the cigarette and passed it to Jenny.

I exhaled the smoke.  “Adults are so dumb.  What was that lady’s problem?  It’s just a song.”

Jenny took the last drag, flicked the cigarette into a canal and said, “No shit, huh.  Tomorrow we’ll sing “Throw The Dick”.  Later, filthy mouth!” and took off towards her street.

I gave her a small salute and replied, “Later, smart mouth!”

And I turned out JUST FINE.

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Prologue:

It took everything I had to not title this story “Pussy Is Two Syllables”.

You’re welcome.

In Defense of Hair Bands

This, dear friends, is the exact moment that a frontman in a hair band locked eyes with me for the very first time.  (Please note the super boss Metal Edge magazine t-shirt.)

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This particular frontman is CJ Snare from Firehouse.  A great triumph of mine in recent years was finding a karaoke list that included Firehouse “Don’t Treat Me Bad”, and I sang the shit out of that song.

I’ve drifted apart from many things of my youth – things that I thought I’d love forever.  Winn-Dixie Superbrand individually wrapped cheese slices, white Fayva high-top sneakers, respect for Corey Feldman as a dancer, but the one thing I’ve never parted ways with is hair bands.

If you’re wearing red and black tiger-striped spandex leggings and suspenders with no shirt and preening around a stage singing songs about (a) strip clubs, (b) the Sunset Strip, or (c) strip clubs located on the Sunset Strip, then hell yes.  Count me in.

If your band name is filled with deliberate misspellings and needless accent marks, names of cities in east Asia even though you’re from Scandanavia, or is simply the last name of the person who has the coolest last name in the band – I’m all about it.

I was thinking about it last month when Anne and I went to see Poison for the tenth time, or as most of my “cool” musician friends refer to them, “Do you seriously like those bands?  I have lost all respect for you.  Don’t ever talk to me again.  Ever.”

Fact:  The only reason I ever took my Poison door poster down was to put up a Skid Row one, that I promptly covered with red lipstick kisses.  The Skid Row door poster was surrounded by posters of Kip Winger.  I bear no shame, and I shame no bears.  Related, Kip Winger is an unapologetically hairy man.

My cool friends will often accuse me of just trying to be “ironic” by liking these bands, even after I assure them that I’m not, and pull out my collection of Winger t-shirts, much to their horror, as proof.  My love for all things hair band runs as deep as the swimming pool in the L.A. Guns video for “The Ballad of Jayne”.

It blasts forth from my heart like a fire hydrant in the Slaughter “Up All Night” video.

It is as pure and platinum as Matthew and Gunnar Nelson’s long, blonde locks.

That’s right.  I’m at Nelson level hair band fandom.

Nelson.

I feel like you really need to know the depths to which my feelings lie, or else this entire conversation will be for naught.  I don’t want you walking away from this thinking I’m talking about rock bands like Van Halen, a band that managed to be the perfect hybrid of wicked fun and incomparable talent.  I don’t want you to think, “Hey, that Maggie sure does like AC/DC!  What a cool lady!” and then call it a day.

Motley Crue is, in fact, the most cerebral band I like from the 80s.

I want you to know what you’re getting into here.  If you put on an Enuff Z’Nuff video, my eyes will glaze over and I will sing along.

Hair bands came along at a time in my life when things really couldn’t have been worse.  Poison, in particular, came around when I was in middle school, the literal worst.  The god awful, miserable, worst of the worst.  The onset of the hideousness that was puberty, living in a house with caved-in bathroom walls and falling-down ceilings, carpets blackened with ground-in cigarette ashes, and piles of old furniture rotting in the yard.  Where when you flipped on the kitchen light, you could be assured that at least 200 cockroaches would scatter for cover, and at least one of them would stand there, defiantly, like “Fuck you, kid.  This is my house,” and you’d know that, deep down, they were right.  Getting shipped off to live with out-of-state relatives when the shit really hit the fan at home.  Getting groped in school nearly every day when the going attitude was, “Ignore it.  Maybe all these guys with their hands all over your body just like you!”

Having a goddamned perm at the exact same time as 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner became popular.

Mr. Belvedere being cancelled.

Middle school in the mid-to-late 80’s:  It was a real crap festival.

No matter how shitty things got, when I turned on the television, I could be assured that Bret Michaels would be there wearing leather chaps, fingerless gloves and a bandanna, literally humping his way up a microphone stand while singing about bops that were unskinny and dancing with laser beams in the shape of ladies.  You could always count on fun times with those bands.  And as a matter of fact, as a singer my entire vocal affectation can be directly attributed to the thousands of hours I spent singing Poison songs as a tween/teen.  I wanted to be Bret Michaels.

Fun was always part of the package with hair bands.  They were like a candy necklace around the bag of garbage that was my life.

I’m not telling you this to get your sympathy for my troubles.  I’m telling you this to get your sympathy for hair bands.

Hair bands provided me with an escape from the misery of my life, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  I know it because I can see it on the faces of the thousands of people who still show up for the reunion tours, who still scream like it’s Beatlemania when Kip Winger walks out onto a stage in his leather pants, and to women like me who feel proud to see Lita Ford still tearing that shit UP.

It’s the pageantry.  The wink-winkiness of it all.  The pointy guitars and choreographed moves while ripping out scales at nearly supersonic speeds.  The men in frosted pink lipstick and thigh-high red boots and the women in flamey leather jumpsuits pouting for the photographer in Circus magazine.  The frontman wearing a pair of cow-print chaps and doing high-kicks onstage.  My god, how could you not love it?  How could you not love every single second of it?

I mean, it’s just rock ‘n roll. Why you “cool people” gotta be so uptight about it?

And I’ll tell you this much, smartypants, the fact that I love hair bands doesn’t detract from my love for “ooh serious bands” like Wilco and Dinosaur Jr even one little bit.  Just because you love sumo wrestling doesn’t mean you can’t also love greco-roman wrestling, or professional wrestling, or mud wrestling.  The love for one thing doesn’t detract from the love for all the other things.

That being said, if Jeff Tweedy from Wilco and CC DeVille from Poison were both tied to train tracks and I could only save one of them…

I’m just saying the guy doing the high-kicks in the leather pants is probably not going to be the one who ends up becoming train meat.