March 2, 2007

First Person:

Out of the closet Gato guy

By Al Carlos Hernandez

After a lengthy visit with my daughter from San Diego, we came to the realization that irrespective of my bluster and anti-feline tirades, I am indeed a cat person.

In retribution for my past cat bashing I hereby take back everything said about Cat being the other white meat, and contrary to previous reports, if a cat passes away in my back yard, I hereby promise to call the SPCA instead of tossing it by the tail three yards over into the yuppies hot tub. The truth be known my aim isn’t that good, and folks get mad when they find former pets on the roof.

This whole change of heart came in the form of a matted black cat with green eyes, which frequents the side of the house, who one of my little guys named Charlie. In traditional cat-like fashion Charlie always gave me attitude, yet unlike other cats, or females in general for that matter, wouldn’t shy away from me. I liked that.

One day after roasting way too much chicken, while testing out our new restaurant quality, high tech brushed aluminum, cost as much as a Toyota oven, I was faced with a quandary. Do I toss the Chicken out, or do I break off a little something-something to the little cat that was giving me big attitude?

Insecure about my cooking I thought what if I gave him some and he didn’t eat it, my sons would find out and this would give credence to the fact that my cooking sucked. If I fed the little guy he would be over my house more than a Jehovah Witness after you have taken the free literature.

In the finest Latino tradition I gave him a whole chicken, rice, beans and some diet coke.

The next door neighbor, who made it a point to mention that his wife won best garden in the subdivision, no thanks to us, and our wildlife preserve attitude on lawn care, mentioned to me that Charlie was Mimi, a nefarious feline who for reasons he would not elaborate on was once their house cat. Through one transgression or another got bum rushed.

It is right then and there that I decided Charlie would become our step-cat. Any cat that had the ability to get fired as a house pet was an animal we could all be proud of.

My daughter reminded me that I used to tell her stories of cats we had owned throughout the years, most notably the fat grey one we smuggled into our Housing Projects apartment. She too has a cat named Rocky who could fit in the palm of her hand when he was a kitten. We talked about the joy of cat ownership and then I had a breakthrough, cats are amicable, just as long as they don’t live in the house and sleep next to your head.

After watching Dr. Phil I realized that the animosity toward cats developed because my wife is allergic to them, therefore if cats hurt her they hurt me, and as a macho, I want to protect her. Therefore, no matter how much I liked cats, I couldn’t like them consciously.

Charlie somehow knew this and flattered me by eating the whole chicken.

Yesterday, I went out to the side of the house to see the gato negro laying on his back looking like he was knocked out. I feared I smoke him through salmonella food poisoning. This time it was a plate of stew meat a few veggies, and maybe a cookie.

He was unresponsive, I started looking around to see where the closest fences were and how high the neighbor’s rooftops were, charting wind direction, and looking to see what kind of condition Charlie’s tail was in should I have to use it as a handle.

Once I waved the food in front of his nose, he got up slowly with a disgusted “Where you been fool?” look on his face. He was playing me.

As he meanandered over to the plate on the fence beyond him there was another cat, this one with a collar, no doubt Charlie’s homie, watching the action. Charlie looked over to him just before he bit down with a “How do you like me now?” glance.

Cats are cool, just as long as you don’t get shirts made with their pictures on it; dress them up in human clothing. You know you are sprung when you start telling long boring stories about them.

Wait, I just did.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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