Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The story of Jonah the cat - named after the guy who was swallowed by a whale.
There is another star in heaven tonight. 08/10/10 at 10:00 pm our most awesomest cat ever - Jonah - used the 9th of his well spent, well loved 9 lives. He died on our wedding anniversary - 08/10/08 - somehow, it seems fitting that Jonah would choose today to go - so we'd never forget him - not that we ever could - he will be hugely missed in our lives. That cat was one in a million.
One night in New York City in the year 1994 - I walked from Broadway to my home in Alphabet City. I walked that night instead of taking a cab or subway because I needed time to process the preceding 12 hours. I had spent the whole day in a Broadway theatre watching all 8 hours of "Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes - Millenium Approaches & Perestroika." Growing up Mormon there was a lot to process.
Walking on 7th street between 1st & Ave. A - I came upon a small crowd of people peering into a sunken grate in the sidewalk. It was the usual crowd of Lower East Side residents - (before Guilani came in and ruined it, anyway). There were a couple of hipsters, a couple of drag queens, a couple of junkies and an old lady.
I walked up behind them and asked, "What are you guys looking at?" One of the drag queens says, "There's a kitten stuck in this crevice - we're trying to get him out." I say, "Let me see". I peek in and call out, "Come here, kitty kitty."
This tiny grey kitten immediately runs out of the hole directly at me - straight up my outstretched arm - he fit perfectly in the crook of my neck. The group of east villagers stare at me and say almost in unison, "That's your cat, we've been trying to get him out for hours - he chose you."
That was Jonah. He chose me.
I named him Jonah after the prophet who didn't want to be a prophet so God sent a whale to swallow him - a bit passive aggressive, no? After a day spent enveloped in "Angels in America" - it seemed a fitting tribute. Even if you run away from your destiny - God will hunt you down and find you or something like that.
I wasn't sure I could take care of a cat - I could barely take care of myself in New York. At the time I wasn't totally succeeding, I was surviving - but I wasn't happy - I was stubborn - I should have left but I was sticking it out, like a marriage in the 50s.
But after Jonah chose me, my New York improved exponentially. Every day, no matter what time I came home, Jonah would meet me on the corner of 7th & Ave. B and walk me back to the apartment - talking - telling me about his day. The drug dealers on the corner would say to me, "That cat's a thug - smooth - he must hear your feet - we know when you're coming home, cuz he struts out to wait for you on the corner - that cat's a pimp." When you've got the 7th Street drug dealers' respect - you know you've got a super cool cat.
Born in the East Village of New York City, Jonah traveled extensively by car, plane and train with me and lived all over the United States - he lived and had many friends in Salt Lake City, Venice, Hollywood - finally settling in Silverlake for the past 10 years. He continued to meet us at the street corner every night, everywhere we lived. He loved birds especially ones he could catch. He loved his view from the window overlooking Silverlake. He loved me, unconditionally.
When my husband moved in 8 years ago, he fell in love with him instantly. I'll admit at times I was jealous of their bond but love is not an emotion to stifle.
Every story and every script I've written in the past 16 years, was aided by Jonah's excellent lap skills.
Almost every film I've screened in the past 16 years (1000s and 1000s) - all were watched with Jonah curled up on top of me - programming was his favorite time of the year - I watched every festival film submission so as not to disturb the sleeping cat - so for all the filmmakers who got into any festival I've programmed since 1994 - you can thank Jonah. He loved slow, quiet, lyrical films the best.
He had several starring roles in Shaz Bennett films but my favorite performance was in "Top of the Circle", which you can watch below if you like - it seems fitting for today. Since it's also about life, death, bacon bits, circles and breath.
Every loss echoes the ones before - we miss him so much - it's truly devastating. He never considered himself a pet, he was more like a roommate - a friend and confidente.
He died with both Jean-Pierre and I by his side. We held him and told him it was okay for him to leave, he saved us from having to make that decision. He breathed out, one last time at home with us.
It's been said that a good death was not about when or how; it was about knowing love.
Jonah was love and so very loved. People keep telling me 16 is really old for a cat but even still everyone you love dies too soon.
We love you Jonah.
One of my favorite Jean-Pierre photos of Jonah taken last year with the iphone.
TOP OF THE CIRCLE: Starring Jonah the Cat
This is the story of Jonah as told by Shaz - Jonah was working on his memoirs at the time of his death.