Barry Smith: Irrelativity | AspenTimes.com

Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

You know me, right? I’m pretty hardcore, wouldn’t you agree? Kinda intimidating in that wouldn’t-want-to-meet-him-in-a-dark-alley sort of way. Right? I mean, you wouldn’t think that I’m the type of guy who’d crawl around under a fir tree with a flashlight late at night searching for the perfect-sized pine cone because the cat just lost hers under the stove and, despite having plenty of other cat toys, pine cones are her absolute favorite thing to play with and the thought of her pining away in front of the stove for any longer is just too much to bear.

That’s not the sort of thing I’d do, right? RIGHT?

“Ah-ha! She’ll love this one,” I think, picking up the perfect cat-paw-sized cone and racing inside with it, not wanting the cat to suffer any longer than necessary. “I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she realizes what I’ve done for her. Then, afterward, maybe I’ll lock myself in my room and take a long, hard look at who and what I’ve become. … Nah!”

Did I mention that I did this willingly? I acted alone. I didn’t grumble into the night under the orders of someone else. No. My idea. My flashlight.

My friend Arman visits about twice a year, and he always brought his cat, Dinah.

(Note: Dinah is named after Dinahsus, the Greek god of newspaper column ideas.) Arman would stay elsewhere, but Dinah always stayed with us. Since Christina and I are on the No Kids, No Pets program, when a small living thing gets introduced into our environment it’s quite noticeable. And, like proud, annoying new parents, when Dinah arrived Christina and I would take pictures, shoot video, make charcoal sketches, talk endlessly about Dinah when anyone came over, etc. … It was awesome. I’d go from non-cat-owner to tedious-cat-fanatic in the time it takes to crack open a can of Whiskas Tuna and Spleen.

Well, Dinah recently shuffled off this feline coil. Arman, after an appropriate grieving period, got himself another cat. A kitten, in fact. And another kitten. TWO kittens! AND THEY’RE STAYING WITH US!!

Did I just audibly squeal? I think I did. Lame …

If one cat in the house was exciting, can you imagine? Two kittens! The math is deceptive. Dinah was an older cat, so she pretty much slept for about 22 hours each day. In an adorable way, of course. But these kittens are all kitten-like, pouncing on things, jumping on things, batting at things, chasing things around, chasing each other around. My God, it’s astounding! I actually just had to take a break from writing this to go and see what they’re doing right now. Bonnie is curled up in a sunbeam. Clyde is stretched out on a chair. CUTE! Sometimes, when I’m sitting in the same room as them, I’ll spend embarrassing amounts of time looking back and forth, like a tennis match, “What’s Bonnie doing? What’s Clyde doing? What’s Bonnie doing …?” Even if they’re both asleep.

This zeal is made even more humiliating by the fact that I’m slightly allergic to cats. So every time I touch them I have to wash my hands right away or I’ll lapse into a swollen-eyed sneezy itch fest. I know what you’re thinking ” just don’t touch them, right? Oh, you make it sound so simple …

Oh! And the iPhone! My iPhone, still a new gadget for me, allows you to easily take pictures and e-mail them to people. I’ve taken/sent nearly a dozen cat pictures each day since they arrived, some to Christina and some to Arman. Yesterday, in a perfect example of how far I’ve drifted from my own personal sense of self, I e-mailed one to myself. I remember thinking, “Oh yeah ” Barry … he thinks he’s all punk rock, but I bet he secretly likes cats. I’ll send him a picture of Bonnie looking out the window.”

There’s no hotline to call for this condition. I’ve looked. There’s a Catholics Anonymous, and a Catheter Anonymous, but no Cataholics Anonymous. No self-help books to read. I’m stuck in a cat-fixated hell of my own making, and it’s cold in here, with little bits of dander floating through the air, washing my hands like an OCD sufferer.

And is it worth it? Well …

I wonder what Clyde is doing right now?


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