Meet Haile Selassie
Tonight I am going to be self-indulgent and write about a post about a kitty I know: one Haile Selassie. He currently resides at the BARC shelter, but until about two weeks ago he was my neighbor. From the mean streets of Greenpoint to the blue chip hipster haven of Williamsburg, Mr. Selassie is, to quote George Jefferson, “Movin’ on up” in the world.
I first became acquainted with Haile about 2 1/2 years ago. Every so often he would pay our apartment a ‘visit’, much to the consternation of our cats. One time my cat Uni and he were having a stand-off, nose to nose, through my bedroom window. Neither one was very happy to see the other. Uni was scratching at the glass like the Tasmanian Devil, which was pretty remarkable given that she hardly moves from her spot on the bed on any given day. Seriously, this gal is fucking lazy. Even for a cat.
Boy was she was pissed, but Haile kept his cool. He simply turned around, positioned his hindquarters just so and managed to discharge a heaping helping of spray right at her face. This did little to assuage her anger. From that day I on referred to him as “Clarence Thomas” and called Uni “Anita Hill” because (after that incident) they had a special ‘thing’ for each other— and it was most decidely NOT love at first sight.
Soon thereafter I learned that my next door neighbors were providing Haile (formerly known as Mr. Thomas*) with food and water. I suspect he was (is) either a runaway or a throw-away because around the time Haile came on the scene I noticed flyers around the neighborhood featuring a “lost cat” whose description matched him to a “t”. If this lost cat was Haile, no one came forward and as a consequence, the area behind my apartment became his home. If I went out there to read, Haile would come over and say “Hi”— albeit while keeping his distance. Last August when my husband and I were out back roasting chili peppers for 3 hours Haile kept us company. Perhaps he has a penchant for spicy food? Only Haile knows and he isn’t talking.
This routine changed when the building next door was gut-renovated last September. After not seeing Haile for awhile, my husband and I thought (hoped) our former neighbors took him with them when they moved out. Earlier this year we learned this was not so; not only did the visits resume, but he pulled the ‘piss in the face’ trick on another one of our cats. This act precipitated a feline feud at Chateau de Ghetto that took 15 minutes and a water gun (that had to be reloaded TWICE), to put down. Although this was not an enjoyable event, my husband and I admired Haile’s raw chutzpah. We even laughed about it later and I thought to myself: “Yeah, this cat is 100% Greenpoint through and through.”
Now jump forward to two weeks ago. The visits became more frequent because Haile was clearly hungry. He would show up at our kitchen window every time I served supper to our little pride. I shit you not, the poor fella licked his lips whenever I would open a can of cat food. I suspect most of you can deduce what happened next: I started feeding Haile too. (Miss Heather may hate dog shit, but she loves animals.)
Shortly thereafter I contacted Lisa Vallez (of BARC) and we set up a trap to catch Mr. Selassie. To his credit, Haile is one clever cat: the first time he set off the trap, he managed to eat the food without getting caught. Exasperated, I rummaged through the fridge looking for something especially enticing to put in there… and I found it: marinated lamb leftovers from Ghenet Restaurant.
Mind you, this was only 36 hours after being violently ill with stomach flu— and one of the things that made the roundtrip into and out of my mouth (and nose) was Ethiopian leftovers. The sight and smell of this foodstuff made me queasy, but being the proud person I am, I was not about to be outsmarted by a cat— no matter how cute he is. Haile was gonna get in that cage if it killed the both of us.
Thankfully, it did not come to that. One minute (if that) after placing the lamb in the trap I heard a loud “SNAP“. I peeked out the window and lo, there Haile was in the cage! Hence how he got his new (and decidely more politically correct) name: Haile Selassie. Although he found the Wellness wet food perfectly acceptable, his taste for Ethiopian marinated lamb from a top drawer dining establishment facilitated his capture. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by his epicurian tastes: Mr. Selassie sports a tuxedo coat, an ascot, white ‘spats’ and gloves. He was clearly born to appreciate the finer things in life, but life saw fit give him something else. Until now.
Thankfully, Haile has a new (and hopefully temporary) home at BARC. Aside from an eye infection (and missing three teeth), he has a clean bill of health: no FIV, no feline leukemia. I imagine it will take a little time for him to learn to trust humans again, but can you blame him? Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part, but I think Haile will come around.
P.S.: I would like to give a big shout out of thanks to Lisa (who also took the above photo) and the peeps at BARC for helping Haile have a shot at a better life. God only knows, he deserves it.
*As unbelievable as it may sound, until recently I never considered the racial implications regarding my choice of moniker for this cat. I am not Don Imus, thank you. Rather, I have a strange (and probably unwholesome) fascination with the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hearings of yore— especially Mr. Thomas’s quip about finding a public hair in his Coke. Every so often when I am at a party (or some other public gathering— especially art openings) and find myself getting bored, I will shout “Someone put a pubic hair in my Coke!” just to see the look on peoples’ faces. I strongly recommend doing this, the response is priceless.
The previous having been said, I (fairly) recently found myself applauding something Mr. Thomas did: his letter of dissent regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to allow eminent domain for private use. He said something to the effect of ‘urban renewal is negro removal’. Not only is the man right, but his tome should be expanded to ‘urban renewal is poverty removal’. One needs not be black to be poor.
As I have gotten along in years (or perhaps have become more aware things— or both), I have noticed that being poor is an unwritten crime in this country. The popular perception seems to be that a person is poor due to a simple lack of moral character. The thought that our government’s lack of moral character (and we, the people’s voting patterns) may be responsible for making these people poor and keeping them that way has clearly not crossed these peoples’ minds. Instead we sweep them under the rug. Good for U.S.