Wherein Stray Cat NOLA Learns a Chilling and Unexpected Truth About Christmas Eve, Shares His Love With a Couple and Shares With You...
Five French Quarter Cocktail Bars That Rock the Spirits and Are Your New Orleans Haunted Bar Crawl
--Read Time: 8 Minutes--
It's Christmas Eve here in New Orleans and your 'ole spar(1) Stray Cat NOLA has been nesting with a couple somewhere on Ursulines Avenue. I say, "somewhere," 'cause I don't care from house numbers.
I follow my nose.
And a few days ago said nose followed the unmistakable scent of two wonderfully made Sazeracs.(2)
A couple sat on their front stoop enjoying these two beauties and it did not take me long to righteously train them to my immediate satisfaction.
Before they finished saying, (What an adorable cat,) and, (I think he wants you to spank him!)--spanking ranks in our Cat's Canon of Orgastic Pleasures(3) and is notoriously difficult to get y'all to perform properly--they were tipping their tumblers to my parched, but always well groomed, mousticator.(4)
Now I am firmly nested with them with all obvious perks to my favor, but not without sacrifice. They are calling me, "Naughty Cat," obligate me to entertain the guests of their seemingly endless holiday parties and not any one of these birdbrains(5), apparently, knows how to minister a proper spanking.
Profound indignations, really.
And tonight is no exception.
For example, this is the live conversation between the couple I am nesting with, Tom and Prudence, and Tom's 'ole spar, Willard, who is not--take note!--any friend of Prudence.
(I can't get over how much this cat likes to drink alcohol!) says Willard.
(I know!) exclaims Tom, in agreement. (We couldn't believe it, either. And he only drinks cocktails. Handmade cocktails.)
(Not even a beer?)
(How 'bout king cake vodka?(6))
(No, Boudreaux.(9) You idiot! Jesus,) says Prudence, finally, to Willard. (Only handmade cocktails.)
(Uh, yeah! Like this delish martini. Would you like one, Willard?)
(No, thank you, Tom.)
(Maybe later, then?)
(Mmm. No. I don't think so. But I am curious. The cat. What do y'all call him, again?)
(Naughty Cat. Moron,) says Prudence.
(And is he naughty. Meow!) volunteers Tom, gamely attempting to change the trajectory of the conversation.
("Naughty Cat." OK. He doesn't seem to get drunk. Does he get drunk?)
(No! I'm telling you,) says Prudence.
(Maybe it's a genetic mutation,) counters Willard.
(Or maybe all cats don't get drunk, shit-for-brains. I mean, when's the last time you had a drink with your cat, Willard? Soulless creature. Revenant.)
(True Dat. But I wish you would just let it go, Prudence. I'm here now, and--)
(But the really crazy thing,) interrupts Tom, (Is that he has to have something to eat in between drinks!)
(Or he won't drink anymore!) exclaims Willard, giving Prudence another opening.
(That's why he doesn't get drunk. Dumb fuck.)
(That's stupid,) says Willard matter-of-factly, both inferring that he's actually intimate with my metabolism and also nudging Prudence closer to psycho.
(OH MY GOD! Really? Could you POSSIBLY be more of a--)
Tom, panicking now: (And he won't eat cat food. Crazy, right? Crazy. Isn't that crazy? Isn't that just crazy? I mean I think that's just crazy.)
(Sure, but what's with all this spanking business I keep hearing about?) asks Willard, advantageously changing the subject completely for Tom, who--with obvious relief--has just been handed the precise segue he so desperately needed.
But filling me with dread.
(Oh, yeah, Willard. Naughty Cat's CRAZY about a spanking. Get you some!)
No. Please, Bast.(10) No.
God of all things that matter--and all things that matter are all things that matter to us, and the rest of you, whatever--hear my purrayer. I throw myself upon the mercy of your infinite feline spirit. I grovel in your presence. I butcher for eternity all crawling flying swimming things and leave them as sacrifice on the altar of erotic papillae of your tongue and crouch by you as eternal sentinel ever ready to pluck the thorn from your paw which is silly 'cause you're a god and that can't happen to you but you know what I mean. Regardless, mighty Bast, I beg of you your divine intervention no more spankings as these villein(11) know not what they do.
But it's too late.
My supplication to our notoriously fussy god is seemingly unheard or unanswered.
Another amateur paddling to my furbearing bum commences.
My body is convulsed as if ravaged by some filthy stank hair.(12)
My hindquarters immobilized, my head bobbling, my eyes distended, I desperately pull myself across the floor with my front claws attempting to escape. I swear on my murder mittens(13), it's as if one of my nine lives is being distilled from my soul and then juiced through my tear ducts.
But this sad tom(14) mistakes this for ecstasy.
He doubles down and starts making disturbing noises and kitten talk(15) and, because I don't want to lose this cush nest, Bastet preserve my pride--while simultaneously fantasizing about raking the veins from his arms with my hind claws--I begin faking feline ecstasy right here in front of all of them.
My mouth is stretched wide, my body contorted, my face rubbing up against anything living or dead or moving or unmoving or whatever, Idontevenknow, and I'm just about to pee when I hear one of their sheba's(16) say,
(You've got the wrong procedure.)
The spanking stops quickly and dramatically.
The tom stands away from me and the sheba says,
(Oh. Willard. It's you. I'm sorry. I didn't know you were invited. How did I not know Willard was invited, Prudence?)
But before Prudence can respond, Willard says,
(Oh, so you're going to show me how to do it, are you? Know all about it, don't you? Don't you, Felicity? Know all about everything. I bet you teach that at the college, hmm? Cat Spanking 101.)
(I instruct at a university, Willard.)
(You got a great name, ya know? "Felicity.")
Whereupon, Prudence suddenly says very loudly,
(OKAY! It's time. Everyone gather 'round the Christmas tree. It's time to read the poem!)
Everybody does that.
But I follow Felicity to where she's standing.
I am downright voracious to test her skill.
I collapse at her feet and roll over on my back, giving her my belly.(17) I stare up at her from between my paws, my eyes liquid. I do that thing we do where I throw my head to one side while simultaneously throwing my ass to the opposite side.(18)
I do that again.
I roll back over. I gently nibble her toes with side bites.
Her toes are peeping out from the front of her shoes. Her nails are painted the precise shade of arterial blood and, not being a cat, you cannot possibly understand what that does to me.
And then I stand up and back into her, my tail upright, quivering, my purr on the Richter scale.
She doesn't stand a bird's chance in my mouth.
I need to get busy with her hands.
Prudence and Tom kick off their shoes and sit in front of the tree--whose hanging temptations I have successfully ignored with exquisite agony to protect myself from a kittyclysm(19)--cuddled up on a small couch, their legs folded underneath themselves, sharing an open book.
Felicity kneels next to me, her hands poised to put it to me in the most proper of fashions.
My eyes are closed now waiting, waiting, the beautiful ecstasy of anticipation before the kill, when Prudence says,
("'Twas the night before Christmas...,")
Felicity holds my face and does this thing with her thumb on my--oh! Oh, yes. Her fingers now behind my ears and I--Ahhhhh. Oh! Oh!
How is this possible? This epic procedure? She--arrrrrgh!
My nerve endings are blistering points of light impaling me on the moment.
I am just barely capable of registering, at the edge of my consciousness, what is happening in the room--
("When all through the house...")
("Not a creature was stirring...,")
-- and my last Sazerac is now creeping up the back of my throat because, truly, all this unabashed concentrated cuteness that is not feline is terrifying and foul.
("Not even a mouse." (20))
At which, I open my eyes.
Because a fuzzy new happiness is edging into, and salvaging, my creeping-throat-vomit-compromised rapture.
I realize: They have written this poem about me!
Because the reason, of course, "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse," was I slaughtered all the mice.
I chewed their little heads, gutted them, ripped them in half and placed them under the Christmas tree, their disemboweled entrails hanging out and arranged in a message of love that says, "Thank you for all the drinkies and your well intentioned but, frankly, remedial, lame and embarrassingly sad, stunted and embryonic knowledge of the Cat's Canon of Orgastic Pleasures!"(21)
I even checked the spelling.
Felicity suddenly strokes me along my spine, hard, with one hand while lifting the other for the coup de grâce of the spanking.
Then two things happen simultaneously:
I lose it, reflexively crying out,
OH, SWEET SHEBA, TAKE ME HOME AND FEED ME DRINKIES! I'M GONNA--
while Prudence shifts on the couch, bringing one of her bare feet to the floor, cutely nestling her little toes in my paragraph d'amour of glistening, greasy micey guts.
("The stockings were hung by the chimney with--" OH MY GOD, TOM! WHAT THE FUCK? LOOK AT THIS UNDER OUR TREE. I CAN'T! MY TOES! IT'S DISGUSTING!)
And Felicity's hand stops.
I literally feel the air pressure change in that dip just above the base of my tail.
Prudence leaps up, her feet dancing as if she's kneading biscuits while sniffing catnip.
It's quite something, really. So good, in fact, I will take this exceedingly distressing instantaneous exchange of unequal pleasures in immeasurably distant consolation.
My eyes are at maximum pupil, my body hunkered to the floor, my tail thrashing at full pendulum.
I am in deep anticipation of inevitable entertainment.
Tom looks stunned. Then he looks by her rabid feet. He covers his hand in some stripped wrapping paper from under the tree, leans over and, avoiding her gnashing heels, picks up one of the mice carefully, holding it aloft by its mutilated head to show everyone in the room.
Prudence screams so loudly my ears swivel.
(WELL DON'T PICK THEM UP FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!)
(HOW MANY ARE THERE? TEN? FIFTEEN? AND BABIES! LOOK AT ALL THE BABIES! THE POOR BABIES!)
And after a pause:
(MY TOES IN THE MUTILATED BABIES!)
And then another pause and:
(THERE'S NO BLOOD! HOW DO THEY DO THAT? I DON'T KNOW. BUT SOMEHOW THAT MAKES IT EVEN MORE DISGUSTING, DON'T YOU THINK?)
Which seems very odd to me, given the circumstances, that she's suddenly introspective and asking rhetorical questions while obviously excited about my gift. But there it is. This is what she's saying:
(IS HE A LITTLE ALCOHOLIC SURGEON? I CAN'T TAKE IT!)
Everyone is embarrassed and alarmed. The room is so silent that if the ghosts of those mice scampered across the gardens outside the Supreme Court of Louisiana on Royal Street I tell you I would hear them.
And in that hush, my eyes careen back and forth to take in my suddenly alarming circumstances because everyone is staring at me and my whiskers are now trembling with omen...omen, in fact, of the kittyclysmic variety.
Maybe even cataclysmic.(22)
When Prudence screams,
(ON CHRISTMAS EVE NO LESS!)
Whereupon, Felicity says,
(Well. I am compelled to point out--may I say something?)
Again. There is utter silence.
(Well. Of course. Thank you, Felicity. Yes, please. The TENURED TULANE ENGLISH PROFESSOR is gonna tell us all about dead mice under the Christmas tree.)
(In fact, yes I am, Willard.)
Willard starts clapping and underneath his clapping I hear someone say, ultra quietly,
(Shhhhh, Willard. Push it along. You need to get over her already. It's been twenty-three years.)
Tom looks at Prudence. Contained in her eyes is his certain death after requisite torture. He gulps his martini, looks desperately at the empty glass and says,
(YES! Absolutely. Say anything. Anything at all. For Christ's sake, yes! Anything.)
(Okay,) says Felicity,
(Well. You might find it interesting to know that, Once Upon A Time, Halloween did not exist and ghost stories were told on Christmas Eve. Indeed, the dark winters and, most especially, "'Twas the night before Christmas," when tales of hot blood were shared.)
Some of the villein are looking around at each other, smiling, and some are staring off into some infinite distance.
But they're not looking at me.
And this is foie gras(23) for ye olde Stray Cat.
I retreat behind Felicity's legs as she continues,
(Charles Dickens said Christmas Eve, is the "witching time for storytelling."(24) Witness his, A Christmas Carol, and Henry James', The Turn of the Screw, both of which are legendary, masterpiece hauntings stories that take place on Christmas Eve. Or the ghost stories of M.R. James. Which were written to be read on Christmas Eve. But these authors were merely players in a tradition that goes back for centuries.)
I am resolutely fixed on the gap between Felicity's heels because through this gap I see Tom speaking with Prudence. Their heads are together, like conspirators. Then Tom turns to stare at me through this gap, his eyes narrowing. His muscles shift, moving his skeleton, unmistakably, into the posture of the hunter...with one singular purpose.
To apprehend my furry ass.
So as Felicity continues with her chilling and unexpected history of the night before Christmas--
(Christmas Eve, until relatively recently, was the accomplice of lost souls...)
--and I extricate myself from this, indeed, cataclysmic end to my cocktail-bearing nest, it seems somehow appropriate to let me just say, first and foremost, Boo Dat! New Orleans has been called, "the most haunted city in America."
And even though this statement is like used kitty litter--I will leave it to you to connect the analogy--because it cannot possibly be measured, we are a most haunted city in America and many of our famous bars are included in these haunts.
So, Pass the boos!
--Read Time: 6 Minutes--
1. 'ole spar. Unlike many cat terms or slang, which are interpreted solely by their context, 'ole spar is only, ever, used one way and is universally understood to mean that, "I am your best friend. We go way back. Our bond is forged on shared experience." It is one of the great compliments a cat can pay and is never said lightly or in jest. Even among enemies. It is derived from kittens sparring and learning together what it is to play and hunt and protect and to love.
2. Sazerac. The official cocktail of the city of New Orleans. Created in the French Quarter in the mid 1800's, it is ratified as our official cocktail by Senate Bill Number 6 in 2008. The ingredients are rye whiskey, Herbsaint, Peychaud's bitters, sugar and a twist of lemon.
3. Cat's Canon of Orgastic Pleasures. The lost and indeed, perhaps mythical, encyclopedia containing all feline pleasures and ecstasies. It is whispered among cats that there are, in fact, raptures of physical pleasure contained there-in that are not only forgotten but, also, never known to begin with. It may be guarded by Bast, Herself, the cat deity, or something else, something--more--terrible. No cat can possibly know. It is believed that the reason for its enforcement to never be read is that some of these transportations are so extreme and addictive that, if known, would destroy cat civilization from within. This includes the truly wild--or fey--the feral, the stray and the domesticated. This does not keep cats from seeking it, however. Indeed, quite the opposite. With the promise of such rarefied satisfactions, even though they are coupled with the end of all feline culture...I mean, who cares?
4. mousticator. Not only cat slang for "mouth", but also viewed by cats, when used, with great hilarity. It is a pun on the word "masticator", something that grinds material to pulp: dictionary-dot-com. In other words, mice belong in my mouth and I grind them to pulp. See. Hilarious, isn't it?
5. birdbrain. One of the few words that has the same meaning to both cats and humans: a stupid person. merriam-webster-dot-com.
6. king cake vodka. Vodka infused with the flavor of New Orleans' beloved Carnival, or Mardi Gras, tradition: king cake.
7. cherry bounce. A, usually, homemade cherry-infused liqueur.
8. Gingeroo. A ginger infused ready-to-drink rum cocktail made by Celebration Distillation, New Orleans.
9. Boudreaux. Boudreaux & Thibodeaux jokes poke fun at dim-witted Cajuns.
10. Bast. Also known as Bastet, Bast is the cat deity. She is their only deity. Cats are truly monotheistic. Unlike human religions, which tend to have specific prayers or mantras that are continually, and throughout generations, said verbatim, a cat's prayers--or purrayers, as felines call them--to Bast must be spontaneous and made up on the spot, specifically worded to the situation that the cat is in at that moment. They are never to be repeated. A cat's memory is infallible in this regard. It remembers precisely every purrayer it has ever uttered so as to not commit the grave sin of Reiteration. If this is done, the attention drawn to the feline by Bast is dangerous because to forget what is asked of the deity, even throughout an entire lifetime, insults Her. When a cat can no longer remember its previous myriad purrayers and says them, or pieces of them, in supplication a second time Bast will cause a Dread Visitation upon them. Or not. As She is notoriously fickle. Any irony or humor or, frankly, anything ridiculous, however, is also appreciated by Bast in purrayers to Her and the more so the more likely that she will answer them...or belay her Dread Visitation if a worship has been repeated. This is because that even though Bast is a god, She, like all felines, has a deep, ever unsatiated, need to be entertained. And Her need is god-sized.
11. villein. "A member of a class of partially free persons under the feudal system, who were serfs with respect to their lord but had the rights and privileges of freemen with respect to others." From dictionary-dot-com. This is how cat's view humans. Cats are the lords and humans are the serfs who answer to the whims of said lords but who have equal rights among themselves. But cats can, and do, fall in love with their villein. As they say, "It's complicated." Cat's must save face. They don't talk about it. The Great Hypocrisy is never discussed. In other words, "We're all getting what we want, so just--oh look! There's a squirrel!" It may also interest you to know that the word 'villain' derives from this word.
12. filthy stank hair. Cat slang for dog. There are many. All are insulting. This particular insult is double edged, inferring not only that dogs stink, as, horrendously, they do not clean themselves, but, also, that they do not have fur, like cats, only hair. Dogs are unworthy of fur. Forget that fur and hair are, arguably, the same thing. Or that, arguably, dogs also have fur. These facts are utterly beside this unalterable point: dogs are ignoble. And appallingly dangerous. They also suck up to villein. Cats view all dogs with condescension, despite, hatred and fear. Oddly, however, when a domesticated cat forms a friendship with a dog it is not viewed with derision by other cats. Domesticated cats are wizards at successfully manipulating their environment with genius and this is respected by most felines. And if one has additionally subjugated the buffoon of a dog it is, really, all the more delicious. So again, "It's complicated." A cat's love for a dog is known as The Other Great Hypocrisy. Also never discussed. In other words, "We're all getting what we want, so just--oh look! There's a squirrel!"
13. murder mittens. A cat's paws with claws extended getting busy with slaughter.
14. tom. A male cat. But also used interchangeably, when convenient for cats, with the male of any species.
15. kitten talk. Any talk or uttered sounds that are sexual or suggestively sexual in nature. And although associating dirty talk with children is creepy, damaged and reprehensible, to cats it logically follows that this kind of foreplay inevitably leads to kittens. Felines just sayin'.
16. sheba. A female cat. Used interchangeably, when convenient for cats, with the female of any species, it was also villein slang in the 1920's for, "a young woman with sex appeal." Who knew? Editors of Time-Life Books (2000). The Jazz Age | The 20's (p.33). New York: Bishop Books, Inc.
17. "...giving her my belly". When a cat gives you its belly to stroke it is a gesture of complete trust...or manipulation. Or both.
18. "...that thing we do where I throw my head to one side while simultaneously throwing my ass to the opposite side." This is called by cats, That thing we do where I throw my head to one side while simultaneously throwing my ass to the opposite side. Also known as, Cat Thing We Do.
19. kittyclysm. A minor disaster brought about to a cat by its own actions. This word derives from the inference that the cat must be naive as a kitten to have created such self-inflicted mishap.
20. "Not even a mouse." This line, the three previous and, "The stockings were hung by the chimney with--" are from the famous villein poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas, by Anonymous or Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston, Jr. or Idon't Bloodyknow because, apparently, nobody has a clue who wrote it.
21. "...arranged in a message of love that says, "Thank you for all the drinkies..." All cats are haruspex. The divine gift of arranging, spelling and reading messages in the exposed entrails of animals is instinctual to all felines. But unlike in ancient Rome where villein sought omen and prophecy in the guts of sacrificial animals--merriam-webster-dot-com--and more than often lied about it, cats use this gift as a language, leaving messages, decipherable only to themselves, throughout human civilization. Only the truly wild, or fey, felines are seers. All of them can accurately predict the future in the viscera of the sacrificed. They do not like to do so, however, because of what they may learn, a distinct and instinctual fear of what will inevitably be. And they will not do so of their own volition. Nonetheless, they can be compelled to prophesize by felines that they view as lesser than themselves, those that, maybe, they even hold in contempt: the stray and the domesticated. This is because of a curse that was laid upon them by Bast, a very long time ago. No cat knows why. But some will take advantage of it. Which is exceedingly dangerous as it creates an exceedingly dangerous enemy for life. The seer cat does not forgive this transgression. Ever.
22. cataclysmic. Has the same meaning to cats as it does to villein, but with the thoughtful touch of containing the word "cat". When used by felines, however, it indicates an exponentially higher weight of disaster than a kittyclysm. See 19.
23. foie gras. Foie gras is the fattened liver of a goose or duck that has been force fed to create this delicacy. It is ambrosia among cats. When a cat uses this slang it invariably means something supremely good. Used here by Stray Cat, it specifically means that the situation has turned to his advantage--albeit, briefly. The only thing that would make foie gras more "foie gras" to a cat is if they were present to watch the birds suffer or, better yet, be their tormentors. But even for a cat, occasionally, you can't have everything.
24. Charles Dickens said Christmas Eve, is the "witching time for storytelling." From Smithsonianmag.com: A Plea to Resurrect the Christmas Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories by Colin Dickey, Smithsonian-dot-com, December 15, 2017.