Philip Alderton explores the cattier side of Los Angeles.
Back in the nineties Val and her cats were my roommates. There was oh-so-cool Nute and Miss Lucky – who was a chubby tabby; one of those beings we used to say is full of charm and heart. Val has always been a cat person. Greetings and sign offs are often “Meow”!
When her last cat died a little while ago I didn’t think it would be long before new ones appeared and whoever they would be were finding a very fine home. Today Val called me on her way to the cat rescue to see if I would care for a drive along the coast to Malibu? Well, I’ve not done anything for a year except stare at the ceiling so it’d be hard to claim I was busy. Since the maid was here I couldn’t even crawl into bed. So I accepted.
Alas the drive along the coast was only a few blocks before we turned into a community that was founded in the sixties. As it was a lot closer than Val expected, we were early. Early to adopt a cat by TEN minutes. Then she mentioned we weren’t to knock, but send a text. The Cat lady we were visiting believes the door knocking spooks the cats. I see the picture more clearly now and that’s why we saw the community in a leisurely cruise past the sneering teenagers.
The front houses sit on the bluff over the ocean, the rest of the houses see nothing. Just a well to do community. Houses that looked like they were all auditioning to be in the Brady Bunch. It’s the sort of place where the teenagers are torn from Vogue and look distrustfully at Accords. An idyllic place to be a cat rescue lady.
Val told me her ordeal of adopting a cat. “The Rescue needed this paper work and that paper work… Phone calls and emails. It was worse than getting a lease for a corporate apartment community.”
Finally it was one o’clock and the text was sent.
The door opened to reveal Summer, 40ish, tidy and full of chatty enthusiasm. A well-meaning yuppie with a hippie name. Not the crazy cat lady I expected and she immediately addressed that stereo-type: she’d gotten there 20 years too soon.
She apologized about the door knock paranoia. The first impression on entering was the stench of twenty cats. It was once spacious but now crowded with cat condos, lots of them. Maybe each cat gets one? Trying not to gag I stepped further in and silhouetted against the back window. Sets of feline eyes watching intently from their condos and chairs and couches, some even on the ground – softly rugged. It was a scene from an animated film when the hero spots all the eyes in the dark. You instantly knew they were deducing who we humans were? Were we patters and cuddlers? Were we worth waking up for, or should lunch time snoozes resume?
Pee pads lined the chairs. Summer apologized as some of her own cats were incontinent, but the fosters were fine – mostly. Scented candles helped take away some of the cat smell. I found a corner of a couch to sit it out. Val was in cat heaven. Summer explained that if she had more room she’d rescue dogs. In New York it was bunnies. The trouble with rescuing bunnies it seems is their short life span. She could try rescuing butterflies. She is a rescuer.
Since this is LA we were also quickly informed that the owner before the owner before her had been a Baywatch actress. The brunette, you know – admit you remember – she was the smart one? Anyway, the couple in between her and Summer owned it three months before divorcing. Do people buy houses to try and save a marriage? Isn’t that what kids are for? Point seemed to be, there was a great view from upstairs and the color scheme was chosen by the actress, not Summer. I guess if you’re named Summer, then your parents were hippies and if you can devote your life to rescuing animals in ritzy communities, then they were rich hippies. That is the only kind to be and maybe the only kind there were. I understood her angst about the color scheme although it seemed fine. She and the husband (who now works in San Fran) bought the house because of the school district but kids weren’t going to happen …. You understand? Val understands.
The Siamese occupies a color coordinated arm chair. Was it camouflage or showing how excellent a Town and Garden Malibu cat it could be? I wasn’t sure if we were adopting a cat or buying the house.
(part 2 to be continued next week)
Photo illustration by Sandra Teles