Thursday, January 31, 2008


Sunday, Lisa and I went to pick up Sprint at the vet. In the waiting room was a giant St. Bernese Mountain Dog (when did I start recognizing breeds by sight?) who enchanted me by the fact that he was twice the size of any St. Bernese I've ever seen.

Several cuddles later, Lisa turned to me and said, "I get it. You're a crazy dog lady."

I totally don't want to face that about myself, but sometime in the past few years, that's what I've become. It started with scanning Craig's list for funny M4W ads I could use to taunt Eve. (Here's your new boyfriend.) Then finding one by a guy who referred to himself and his black labs as "our little crime-fighting trio." Then thinking, "Hmm, I could use some dog energy in my life. To balance all this kitty stuff." Before I knew it, I was discussing operant conditioning training techniques with my friends.

But that's not what this story is about. When Lisa said, "That's okay, I'm a crazy cat lady," I had a flashback to Berkeley in 1984. Catwoman. I'd forgotten about her.

Walking through Berkeley in the 80s, especially in the evenings, you would hear payphones plaintively ringing. You'd pass one, it might go silent. And then you'd hear another in the distance. Sometimes you'd hear four or five on one walk downtown. When I first moved here, I used to answer them. Thinking it was some wrong number and I'd be able to help. "Hello? Hello?" and then there'd be a click. I finally gave up, and pitied the people I saw who were still new enough to try answering.

One evening I saw a guy answer, and was stunned to hear him begin a conversation. Who was on the other end? Why hadn't they hung up on him? A few weeks later I was walking with a group of friends and friends-of-friends. We heard the phone ring, and one of them said, "Catwoman. We can't answer it, anyway. She only talks to men."

That explained the guy I saw! I asked a billion questions, and found out that Catwoman called the phones designated with the graffiti "Catwoman," which I had seen, but not thought about, a thousand times. This woman knew about her because her boyfriend had once answered the phone. And been treated to a lonely, desperate, flirting conversation.

Catwoman had been a part of the Berkeley landscape. Sitting in the vet's waiting room with Lisa, I suddenly wondered when she had dropped away, and whatever had happened to her. Payphones barely exist these days. And Catwoman is 20 years older now. Is she still crying out for attention? Does she use chatrooms and MORGs instead? She's no longer limited to Berkeley. Via the internet, the whole universe is open to her. Is she sated? Is she insatiable?

I miss her now. Those church bell rings of her phones.


Melanie said...

Berkeley is so weird. Yeah to Sprint!

Anonymous said...

Oh man, you're scaring me (as I sit here next to my kitty). This (plus the brilliant last scene of Season 4 of Six Feet Under) is making me resolve to get out more! ;-) -J.M.