Meet Fonzie

The marketability of feline fodder is apparent with the recent movie premiere of Keanu; a comedic romp about a kitten who is dangerously coveted by gangbangers and rescued by comedy duo Key and Peele. This farce inspired my own tabby tale of mishaps and adventures.

I have always been a cat lover. Hence my nickname Kat. My fetish for all things leopard print includes,   scarfs, sunglasses, purses, shoes, sleepwear and throw blankets. It has become my signature style. Even the front covers of my writing journals are graced with images of cats to reflect the stages of my life’s journey. Demure, coy, sassy, bold and most recently regal.  But of late, I have begun to reevaluate my relationship to these fur balls and ask myself what do I really know  about cats?

Meet Fonzie. The feline formerly known as Cosmo. The wretched cat owners before me chose the name Cosmo keeping with the weird behavior patterns of similarly named television characters such as Cosmo Kramer from Seinfield.  But I didn’t want a crazy cat. I wanted a cool cat. So I changed his identity and the Fonz was born.

 I agreed to pet sit for a colleague who was set to vacation in California for a week.  At the end of the 7 days, she told me via text that she would not be returning and hoped  the cat could stay. My ex said I should be honored that the woman left him with me, it proves that she believed I have a “good heart.” But my relocation to China was, in part, an attempt to shirk all semblance of responsibility. Caring for a pet does not fit that mold. It’s like having a perpetual infant at home who you need to feed, bathe, and clean up after for the rest of its life. I am not interested in such a burden. Especially since I find him unusually odd. But my 20 year old thinks he’s a genius and declares his un-catlike antics “cool”. So what to do?At present, my role is to grin and bear it like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. But at times, I want to fling him off the balcony and watch him spiral 23 floors downwards. I could also kindly open my front door and let him venture into the wild (otherwise known as my residential community) and pray that some poor bloke adopts him or skins him for dinner.  These are suggestions from well meaning friends equally appalled at my  newfound chore. But I’m no animal cruel-tist, so to avoid PETA protests and animal rights activists, he remains an unfettered member of my family. However, unlike them, Fonzie waits by the door when I come home from work and sits at my feet while I eat, watch TV or just lounge around the house. He also enjoys getting sprayed with running water in the shower before I get in.

Despite his affection, the evidence of a cat is quite troublesome.  The shedding hair, the smell, the constant meowing, the rip roaring through the house in the wee hours of the morning and the scratching of furniture despite the existence of two scratching poles.  Far worse, was the fact that he was unneutered upon arrival.  As a male cat, he has a tendency to spray his foul odor in designated areas to mark his turf. I dreaded taking him to the vet to pay for an unforeseen procedure that was not in my budget.  But I realized, despite the expense,  I could not allow cost to outweigh comfort. 

 On our first trek to the vet, I stuffed Fonz in a knapsack to get him snipped. But I ended up at a vet that spoke zero English.  So,  I called a Chinese acquaintance to convey my message. At the end of the conversation, she told me to leave because the procedure was too expensive at that location. She referred me to an animal doctor  that was far cheaper and more foreigner friendly.  The second trek brought me to a clinic whose English was limited, accused Fonzie of being a stray and told me that the doctor would arrive in over an hour.  My frustration grew. Once again, I called my pet liaison who clarified all matters and I waited impatiently for the doctor to arrive. It was a whole day affair.

Poor Fonz was not fond of all the attention he received. The poking and probing was too much for him to endure. He literally became a scared-y cat. I watched as they gently gave him a manicure (the proper way) and laid him upon the operating table. He was weighed, then had blood extracted to determine if he was healthy enough for the operation. He was.  While he was anesthetized, I was taken to lunch by the vet’s assistant who also helped me shop for a traditional cat carrier; which I bought in leopard print. For five days, Fonz was forced to wear a cone of shame to prevent him from licking and irritating his wound. But his spirit was beat and he moped around miserably unable to do what he enjoyed best…drive me mad and wreak havoc in my house. It was then, that I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to care and nurture him out of his depressed state. I cooed and cuddled him and reassured him that soon, he would be free from the strait jacket attached to his head. I waited with anticipation. I don’t know who was more excited.

Like Keanu, the story has a happy ending.  Both kitties, are adopted into homes with caring humans who give of their time, love and money to keep them safe.  It’s not the path I would have chosen to acquire a pet, but its the hand I have been dealt. For now, from the Kat’s eye, I am the new wretched owner. Fonz is my cool and crazy cat  and I love him.

 

 

 

 

 

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Identity Crisis

I am Puerto Rican. At least that is the standing joke I share with close friends and family. The truth is I am black.  I lived off of  Graham Avenue, (Avenue of Puerto Rico) in Brooklyn and was immersed in Hispanic culture at a young age.  My mouth waters at the taste of arroz con pollo y habichuelas. I love to salsa and Danza Kudoro is on repeat on my playlist. My pronunciation of certain Spanish terms and phrases is near perfection and my brother’s nickname is Cardo,short for “Ricardo.” Richard claims to be Dominican. But of course he’s not. The truth is we are, I am, unequivocally, unabashedly, 100% black. Unlike Rachel Dolezal, the tanned white woman, who sports cornrows,  is a vocal participant in the Black Lives Matter movement, head honcho of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington  and professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University.

There is a distinct difference with identifying with a certain race, culture or ethnicity and pretending you are of that race, culture or ethnicity. In Dolezal’s guise to be “black” she weaved a web of lies that included being a victim of hate crimes and racial discrimination,  mother of her black adopted brother, an expert on black hair in public lectures, and abused by her white parents in Montana.

Her passion and commitment to advocate for injustices suffered by people of color is a noble cause. But her contributions are overshadowed by her duplicity. As her mother Ruthanne Dolezal told the Spokesman-Review, “Her effectiveness in the causes of the African-American community would have been so much more viable, and she would have been more effective if she had just been honest with everybody.”

From the Kat’s eye, this is a newfangled example of white privilege, a term used to express the social, economic and political advantages a white person has over a non-white person. She grew up seemingly happy in a two parent home in Montana with devout Christian parents who adopted 4 black children into their picturesque family.  All of her earlier photographs depict a smiling, blonde, freckle faced white complexioned child. Can we assume that she was afforded opportunities not easily accessible to people of color as she grew up? Quite likely.  But it would seem that at some point to promote her social justice cause it was more advantageous to be black than white. So, she transforms herself into a stereotypical light-skinned African American woman with kinky hair and starts marching  on the frontlines for all things black.

How was it so easy for others to fall prey to this façade? As a professor of Africana Studies, I am sure she is all too familiar with the dark-skinned vs light-skinned epidemic within the black community. There is an inherent disbelief that black people with lighter hues are more beautiful and have greater success because they can navigate easier among white society. In essence, they are less of a threat because they aren’t considered black enough. Dolezal embraced that unspoken narrative becoming the leading face of Spokane’s NAACP who states that “… racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership.” In other words, she is getting a pass to mock and diminish the black experience because of her own identity crisis. Old scars become fresh wounds bleeding factions among the black community who are arguing over whether or not her decision to be “black” is right or wrong. The bottom line will be how much persecution will she suffer as a white woman pretending to black compared to a black woman pretending to be white?

What happened to integrity and strong moral character?  Is the black community so lacking in leadership that it will settle for a pseudo-black woman of European descent as its spokeperson?  If so, let us be reminded of words from a known great emancipator President Abraham Lincoln, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character give him power.” When confronted with her true identity, Rachel Dolezal feigned ignorance and fled the scene of her ethical crimes. I prefer a leader who does not wait days to confront issues that adversely impact the black community but instead confronts them head on with courage.

Generally, when I hear or observe situations in which I think black people behaved  inappropriately, unintelligibly or irresponsibly, I jest, “I’m so glad, I’m Puerto Rican.” Yet, there is no valor in assuming the identity of another to avoid shame, embarrassment or difficulty within your own race or ethnicity. There is honor in accepting the diversity of others, appreciating those differences, supporting their struggles, and championing their causes. The reality is you don’t  have to compromise, reject or deny who you are in order to do so. This is the American way and it transcends race, religion, gender and political affiliation.

I have overcome my identity crisis, I hope Rachel Dolezal does too.

Let the New Year Begin!

So, no new year resolutions for me. Just a conscious decision to do things differently, to make lifestyle changes that will ultimately change the course of my life for the better. Of course, it encompasses the typical physical, mental and spiritual goals that are set annually and quickly forgotten within 90 days. But, I know that this YEAR is different. To prove this point, I am approaching this whole blogging process differently. It had become such a chore when it was designed to be a platform for me to share freely with joy.  I suffer from  a chronic disease called perfectionism and one if it’s debilitating symptoms is procrastination. In the aimless pursuit to be perfect, time is wasted and usually not spent very productively. Then, I look around and say, where did the time go? It has been sucked into a vacuum never to be used again.  Well today, January 1, 2014,  I chose to use my time wisely and it started with a trek. I felt rather Thoreau-ish as I communed with nature, met some interesting folks, asked some crazy questions, cackled like a hen and took some very bad footage.  I braved the trail of Alligator Alley and got a glimpse of a flock of roseates resting on the water. I peered through a telescope  and was amazed by an eagle’s nest. At the end of the day, it was 2 hours of time well spent in which I learned, laughed and loved every minute. Let the new year begin!

Car ride to Circle B

Walk on the Wild Side

The Wonderment of Bald Eagles

A Super Bowl of Chili

ground beef simmering in variety of cut vegetables

ground beef simmering in variety of cut vegetables

I am no culinary artist but I am very proud of my homemade chili. So much so, that I always look for opportunities to enter chili cook-offs. Just recently, my gated community hosted such an event and I won by default because no one else entered. While they raved about my spicy concoction, it meant nothing because I had no competition!

This year, in the spirit of  Super Bowl XLVII, I joined the festivities by preparing my super bowl of veggie variety chili. Enjoy.

Super Bowl Veggie Variety Chili

1 pound of ground beef or turkey

1 cup of fresh diced mushrooms

1 cup of diced yellow peppers

1 cup of diced scallions (green onions)

1 can of petite diced tomatoes

1 can of Bush spicy, mild or regular chili beans

1 can of tomato soup

chili powder

hot sauce

salt

Season ground beef with cumin and put aside.  Saute mushrooms, yellow pepper, scallions and diced tomatoes in a large pan. Add ground beef to the vegetables and brown.

Let the ground beef and vegetables simmer for about 5 minutes. Add a teaspoon of chili powder, a splash of hot sauce and salt to taste.

Add can of chili beans and tomato soup to the beef mixture and let stew for at least 15 minutes.

Serve hot with shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream on top.