Happy Birthday, Blog
Not surprisingly, the first post featured my cat.
It felt like magic to instantly share images and thoughts from wherever I was at the moment. Blogging pushed all kinds of creative and nerd buttons within me. I loved it.
2004 was also the midst of a tough time in my life and I was in a very introspective place, trying to figure out how I got to where I was and where I could go next. The blog, along with the journaling I’d been doing for years, was a way to help myself sort the situation. Sharing what I saw around me and connecting it to other things on my mind and in my heart was, if nothing else, therapeutic.
(Public Service Announcement: actual official therapy from a professional was immensely helpful too. If you’re struggling and you think you need to talk to someone, do not hesitate like I did for too many years. Just please go try it.)
Blogging was also a way for me to continue to practice writing for an audience again. Peeling, the wonderful NYC Asian-American theater collective I was a member of, had recently gone defunct, closing the only public outlet I had for writing.
At the time, I hadn’t made any films yet but very badly wanted to get started. Bklyn Blggng helped keep those muscles working while I taught myself how to write and direct short films. Writing begets more writing, in my experience.
In the next installment of this series, I’ll cover more of the journey back to blogging. But today I just wanna wish the blog HBD and reflect a bit on the passage of sixteen years.
The hoodie’s still in good shape.
1In 2020, we clearly recognize this as social media, but in 2004 it was a pretty rare thing. And I remind you young whippersnappers that when Twitter got started, they were known as a microblogging service.
It’s true: exercise & pets can help reduce anxiety
Supposedly cats don’t know what cameras are. Supposedly they just randomly & inadvertently put themselves in photogenic situations.
Happy 10th birthday to my dearest Helena. You can’t ask for a better cat to spend a pandemic with.
Tired: drone delivery from Amazon
Wired: balloon delivery of cat treats
Remember: you’re always an Essential Worker to your cat.
(Thank you to all the real Essential Workers out there.)
My cat at 240 frames per second
Super excited to announce completion of CAT (Cat Aerial Transit), connecting left & right sides of our living room with a dedicated feline right-of-way.
Project completed on-time & under-budget thanks to unexpected West Elm sale.
Every day is Caturday when you have a cat. #adopt
Why should dogs have all the fun? For a happier cat, take ‘em for walks. #adventurecats
Indie filmmaking essentials: gaff tape, cheap tripod, releases, headphones, ~10lb cat
I refuse to let my cat wear a unicorn “costume” given by a well-intentioned friend. These things are demeaning and uncomfortable.
Helena and I wish everyone a purrrrrfect 2016!
Helena’s author photo for the cover of her next book.
Is your day already too hectic? Don’t stress, Helena is busy taking it easy for ALL of us.
Happy fifth birthday to my awesome Helena.
My cat > Making people laugh > My dignity
Every day is #Caturday (when you have a cat).
Really psyched that Amazon Prime Cat is finally available in my neighborhood.
#tbt Ten years ago this month: an early Photoshop class assignment featuring the late great Marla Singer.
Slow-mo cat week continues: Helena operates the Greenies dispenser.
Cat enrichment, human entertainment. Everybody wins.
Once a year I charge up my original iPod to make sure the battery and hard drive still work, because I wanna keep this thing playing forever. Helena is impressed that Thunderbolt can still connect to Firewire 400.
Soon after you get over the shock of being old enough to need reading glasses, you realize they’re kind of a pain in the ass to actually use. These CliC glasses are easy to wear, less than $30, and make me look like the shop teacher I always wanted to be. I love ’em so far.
You don’t need money or space to create an enriching environment for your cat. You just need a few things from Ikea and the ability to withstand judgmental comments from visitors.
Want to exude confidence? Here’s how I learned.
Can’t believe this ad is still running. Hasn’t Taiwan suffered enough?
It’s not cruel to make your cat work for its food. It’s enrichment!
Before the inevitable onslaught of snow pix, here’s a cat pix of my dear Helena.
Sometime next year, this bookcase that Helena’s crouching on will probably be replaced by cat shelves. I have a feeling she can’t wait.
Helena proves that the best things in a cat’s life are free: your attention and cardboard boxes.
Helena puts the lion in Mountain Lion.
It’s week three (or maybe four) of Helena’s first-ever indoor grass patch. I’ve yet to catch her chillaxing on the turf, but the cat-shaped imprint there tells me all I need to know.
She’s only been here five months, but Helena pretty much owns the place now. Nobody’s complaining.
From today’s New York Times:
America may be pet-crazed and filled with people eager to buy expensive fetch toys and heated cat beds. But the total population of pets is going down, along with the sums that owners are willing to spend on the health care of their animals, one of the lesser-known casualties of the recession.
Today, the ratio of debt to income for the average new vet is roughly double that of M.D.’s, according to Malcolm Getz, an economist at Vanderbilt University. To practitioners in the field, such numbers are ominous, and they portend lean times for new graduates.
This article is really surprising and disturbing to me on so many levels. My takeaways:
- Virtually all the vets I’ve ever had to bring my cats to have been awesome. It pains me to learn that so many vets are struggling given the important work they do.
- Pet ownership and the amount spent on pet health care should rebound as we get further away from the recession. In a country where the population and the economy are growing, more people have pets and they spend money on them. If both numbers continue to drop, that means our future is probably fucked.
- The student loan situation is fucked now.
As far as I can tell, there’s no way to know if you’re near the end of a Sodastream tank. Is there a name for the anxiety that comes with this uncertainty?
NO points for answering “first world problem.” None whatsoever.
I still miss my beloved Marla Singer, but eventually I realized that the best way to honor her memory was to open my home to a cat who really needed one.
Plus, I just plain missed having a cat around the house.
Helena’s 2.5 years old, 9 pounds, and has similar coloring to Marla (I have a weakness for tuxedos) but with a personality and energy level that’s very different from my former cat.
She’s pure joy to be around.
Helena was the name the ASPCA gave her but I like it, so I’ll keep it. However, I’ll most likely add a few other names once I decide on them. Current favorites include: Helena Bonham Catter Chan and Helena Bonbon Chan, to keep the Fight Club references going…
Marla Singer, my beloved tuxedo cat, passed away this morning after a long battle with kidney disease, among other ailments. She was probably at least sixteen years old, though nobody knows for sure.??We were together nearly twelve years and she was by my side through some of the happiest and hardest times of my life. She made me a better person and I’ll forever miss her.
I remember vividly the moment I first met Marla in an apartment in Astoria in August of 2000. A friend’s co-worker’s friend found herself with one cat too many and Marla, being the newbie, had to go.
I’d lost a long-time cat to cancer the previous year and wasn’t sure when I’d be emotionally ready for another one. But my friend Mimi may have known that the time had come even before I did, because when she forwarded me an email from someone named Gisele about this cat in Queens, I found myself very eager to meet it.
It was a muggy late summer day and a long trek on the subway from my office in Downtown Brooklyn to Astoria. I was sweaty and still in my work clothes when I arrived at Gisele’s. Two very large cats greeted me in the living room, neither of them Marla, who had been sequestered in the bedroom because she had been bullying the pair.
I listened politely as Gisele told me about the cat I was about to meet: it was around four or five years old, had lived with a previous owner (or two) down south (one of the Carolinas, I think), had a broken tooth from outdoor adventures down there, and — most critically — couldn’t stay in the apartment any longer because of her aggressive ways.
Also: the cat had been named Harry for reasons she didn’t understand but that of course I was free to re-name her.
As Gisele told me all this, the two cats who were staying put lounged on the sofa, likely satisfied with themselves for making the cut. They were quite large and solid-looking. Any cat that can scare them must be a brute, I thought. I prepared myself for what was to come.
Preamble over, Gisele led me to the bedroom to meet this Southern Terror. To my surprise, the door opened to reveal a petite tuxedo cat sitting on the bed. She perked up when we entered, probably wondering if the sweaty Chinese guy was delivering food to her. Gisele left the room so we could get to know each other, closing the door behind her.
Alone now with this fearsome cat, I wondered what the fuss was about. She didn’t look very Terrible. I cautiously petted her and she responded immediately with affection. She had a friendly demeanor and beautifully classic tuxedo coloring, with a symmetrical white triangle perfectly cresting in the center of her forehead.
How could anyone mistake this little kitty, barely half the size of the two panthers sitting outside, for a bully? Surely, if she had been aggressive, she must have been provoked and had only been defending herself. After just a few minutes together, I had already become her advocate, a sure sign we’d be going home together.
We rode the subway back to my apartment in Brooklyn and before we got there I already knew her name would be Marla Singer. I’d been blown away by Fight Club the year before and remembered thinking that if I ever had another female cat, she might well be named after Helena Bonham Carter’s character if the personality (and/or the look) fit.
Fortunately, the casting was perfect: feline Marla had already established herself during her brief time in Astoria to be as dangerous (when unfairly provoked, of course) as Fight Club Marla. And visually, tuxedo Marla perfectly matched movie Marla’s black-and-white pallor and palette.
Somehow my vague, quirky wish for a new cat had come true at a time when I wasn’t even sure I wanted a cat. It was an auspicious start to the twelve great years we’d have together.
Marla was diagnosed with early-stage kidney disease and hyperthyroidism in 2009. Both are common ailments for “senior” cats, as Marla was by that time. (It took me a long while to get used to the idea that my cat was old and getting older.) Hyperthyroidism is curable with surgery and manageable with medication. Unfortunately, renal failure is manageable but terminal.
Marla began a long decline that she handled very well with medication and a lot of TLC from everyone who cared about her. (Her vets and the amazing feline renal website FelineCRF.org were literally lifesavers.) In her last year, she “crashed” several times as her disease progressed, each time coming perilously close to the abyss, but each time bouncing back and becoming herself again — a friendly, contented, loving cat despite a life that had been rough at times.
When the final crash came this week, she weighed just 2.4 pounds, less than a third of her mass when I met her in Astoria. She’d literally used up every bit of herself to keep going.
Marla surprised everyone by surviving so many crashes and living as long as she did. But really, this shouldn’t have been a surprise at all: Marla was a very social cat, always eager to be a part of whatever was going on. She insisted on being a part of life, until she just couldn’t any longer. My life is the richer for it.
*Nobody really knew how old Marla was, which only added to her mystery. If anyone reading this knows who the original owner might be, I’d love to find her actual birthday.
Today, my ailing Marla Singer got an acupuncture session in the comfort of our home. She seemed not to mind the needles and the sight of her getting the treatment made me laugh out loud. Win-win so far.
If Marla keeps getting into my beverages, I might have to keep photographing it.
Before I adopted Marla, she was an outdoor suburban cat for several years. Though I think she’s lived happily as an indoor urban cat for the 10 years I’ve had her, I’ve been thinking lately it’d be nice to take her outdoors again, if I can do it safely.
Tonight was her first time on the roof deck of my building and she seems to have enjoyed it. I think a leash, a harness, and Central Park are probably in our future.
(Marla Singer HQ, Manhattan)
(I-95 North Service Area, Connecticut)
Probably not, because the litterbox in your home is most likely sized for your needs, not your cat’s.
Give your kitty the space she needs to do her business. Marla weighs less than five pounds, but she has a 16″ x 24″ converted file box for her toilet. At 15 years old, she deserves it — and probably couldn’t
navigate a smaller one anyway.
It was 25F outside, but that didn’t stop this cat from having a grand old time on the hood of this parked car. He would lick the hood, then tumble around.I don’t know what he was tasting, but it must have been delicious. I’m just glad his tounge didn’t stick to the metal.
(Bayard St, Manhattan)
The cat inside the Prius is not nearly as amused by the roadside photo op as I am, even though I’m the one braving 20 degree weather to get the shot.
(Darien/I-95 Service Area, Darien, CT)
Marla hasn’t come this close to another cat in years, and judging by her reaction to her uninvited visitor, I don’t think she’s missed the feeling.
(Uptown Vets, 116 St, Manhattan)
(Bureau of Conveyances, Honolulu, HI)
Oh, the simple joys of cat life — and cat ownership.
(Clemente’s Maryland Crab House, Brooklyn)
I love dogs too, but they will just never be as cool as cats.
(Grand St, Manhattan)
(6 train heading uptown, Manhattan)
When even the Drinkwell isn’t enough to quench a kitty thirst, Marla finds another solution.
It’s a fact: you’re slaving away at your day job while your cat stays home, mostly sleeping. And if they didn’t look so darn cute doing it, you might actually do something about it.
(Bklyn Blggng HQ)
Moving can be a pretty emotional experience. (Not for me, of course, because I am a bad-ass. I refer here to others.) After you’ve packed and emptied the place you called home, it’s hard not to be reminded of your mortality when you see all that empty space. Soon, someone else’s stuff will fill that void. Soon, someone else will call that place home.After ten years in Brooklyn, I sure will miss the place. My new home in Manhattan is a big step up in just about every way, but I’ll always have a soft spot for the people and places on the Q train. Do cats get wistful, too? Or is Marla just wondering where her litterbox went?
(Bklyn Blggng HQ)
…and he eats house trees for breakfast. He is known to frequent parts of our nation’s capital but had never been caught on camera until now.
Not unlike an old bike, my cat has exactly three speeds:
1. Begging for food whenever I walk into the kitchen.
2. Hopping on the table and trying to eat whatever I happen to be eating.
3. Looking all cute and whatnot when sleeping.
(Bklyn Blggng HQ)
(Bklyn Blggng HQ)
I love cats — and this one is a cutie — but I tell ya, if I ever eat at this [unnamed] restaurant, I’m gonna ask for a seat in the No Cat Butt on Formica section. Just saying.
(West 42 St, Manhattan)
(Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital, Brooklyn)
No animals were harmed to make this photograph, although at least one may have been annoyed.
Marla’s like a totally new cat since she got into yoga.
Marla awaits my arrival at the computer desk, where I’ll have my morning smoothie and tea while reading the NY Times online. I wonder if she likes my Mac’s wallpaper…