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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, March 4

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Bucket List Tue Aug 21 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Love at First Cat Scratch

Previous Entry: My name in print
Next Entry: Standing on my head

Number Five: Fall in love, preferably with someone lovely and fluffy who is already neutered and declawed.

I couldn't get a cat. I just skidded into early late 20s, I lived alone, I'm single. If this was 1895, not 2012, hell, if this was Green Bay, WI and not Chicago, I would officially be an old heifer put out to pasture. To get a cat would just fulfill every single stereotype I had ever heard of the career-obsessed, selfish single cat lady. And what would the relatives say? Or my old high school friends on Facebook?

lemon.jpgBut I wanted one. Really bad. I had the most serendipitous cat growing up. As an only child, I treated Rascal much like a younger sibling, dressing him up in doll clothes, making him listen to my elaborate stories of Barbie drama and hauling him around under my arm like a sack of furry squirmy flour. He loved me and I loved him.

I wanted some of that love back and since I've sworn off any form of online dating, getting a cat seemed to be the quickest way to instant love gratification.

Most cat owners have a moment when they realize getting a cat is the best alternative. To dull the sound of a biological clock, to justify talking to themselves, to have something to love other than NBC's Thursday night line-up, because dogs are just too much damn work. Things happen like waking up on New Year's Day with a traffic cone in your bed instead of a boyfriend. A cat is considerably less pathetic than cozying up to a four-foot traffic cone in the loneliness of the night.

So I headed to the Anti-Cruelty Society. To be fair, there are lots of great shelters in Chicago. I've heard good things about PAWS, and there are a few shelters in the 'burbs as well. But Anti-Cruelty had one major thing going for it: It was cheap. Really cheap. Free in fact.

I went cat shopping during Catapalooza, a type of cat "sale" where any cat over 6 months old was free. So while Lolla-ers were getting evacuated from Grant Park, I was filling out adoption paperwork.

To be honest this wasn't my first trip to the Anti-Cruelty Society. I had gone the weekend before, strolled around and then immediately left to cry my way to the "L" as I bemoaned the fact that I couldn't save them all. Yeah, I'm the "crying because of the cats" girl.

But after a pep talk from my mom, I returned determined to change one lucky cat's life forever. When I asked a volunteer how I should pick a cat, she told me with a face too serious for anyone who spends their days twirling string in front of kittens, "You don't pick the cat. The cat picks you." She was cat adoption Yoda.

In general, I hate this line of thinking. Careers, love, apartments, cars, electronic equipment, sex toys: these things don't "find" you; you carefully research and vet them and select each based on the best price to value ratio. So I researched cats. I weighed pros and cons of older cats with younger cats, males to females, calico temperaments, etc. And then I made a list of the cats who fit the bill at the shelter.

But when I got there all my carefully vetted cats just seemed obnoxious. I meandered through the cages, surrounded by the bemoaning meow of a thousand cats and there in the bottom corner cage was Lola. I peaked down she stuck out her paw at me. It was done. I was in love.

So they literally boxed Lola up and I brought her home. She then proceeded to hide from me for an entire day. And then the incident happened. She was mad at me for cutting her nails and I was attempting to soothe her. She had finally calmed down and was lying almost calmly on my lap when someone dropped something in the hall. In her fright she leaped away, scratching any of my body parts that were in between her and the safety of the dark pit she'd made for herself behind my yoga mat.

And I was left feel totally rejected and wondering if cat scratch fever was a real thing. (According to the CDC, it is.)

The thing is, this is a pretty typical occurrence for me. I fall in love, usually instantaneously, always by the end of the second beer, and then end up with a scratch on my stunned face. Love for me is always leap first and bandage the cuts later.

As I was contemplating whether or not to slather triple antibiotic ointment on the nonexistent open wound on my face, I started to get unnecessarily pensive (it was the fever setting in). I started to think about all the people who loved me despite the fact that I had scratched them in the face.

There are a few precious people in my life who have endured my occasional crazy outburst. They are the ones who pick up my midnight phone calls despite knowing it will be a one-hour existential rant about Facebook as a metaphor for loneliness as the human condition, the ones who stay out with me til 4am on my birthday and then drive my drunk ass home, the ones who put together Ikea shelves with me, the ones who send me birthday cards, the ones who read every single thing I write and still message me to say it was the best ever. To these lovely people, I have been occasionally atrocious. I've hissed and scratched them; there may even be a bite mark or two. But with time and often with tears, I realized these were the people I love most mainly because they put up with my bullshit.

And this is what Lemon deserves. (Yes I decided to name her Lemon. With her kitty acne, bald patches, terrible coordination and extra belly weight she is a bit of a dud, a lovely lemon). I have hissed and scratched and made a fuss enough. Now it is my turn to be patient and understanding. To scratch chins and soothe shaky nerves so that one day maybe lemon will understand the kind of love I'm fortunate enough to have in my life.

It's one of the most difficult life lessons to learn and one I feel I'll have to keep learning over and over again: love is not instantaneous; it is not easy like that. Love is time, cat scratch scars and patience.

If anyone is interested in a free cat, I have an Anti-Cruelty society coupon that will set you up with any cat 6 months or older for no charge. Sweet deal! Email me at

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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