Saturday, November 24, 2001
“Fucking cat I.D.!” I call out from the floor. I am laying on my back with a ¾ full bottle of Guinness Stout in my right hand. Joseph has just brought out his new toy, his latest grand goof, the transformation of his Official California Drivers License into a “cat I.D.”. He has replaced his own head-shot photo (the original photo had been pretty damned good itself; he had stuck his abundant mass of curly dirty-blonde hair straight out at all angles right before going into the D.M.V. and then whenever they would try to take the picture for the license, good old Jo would approximate the facial expressions of someone undergoing a surprise electrocution, eyes wide, mouth wider open showing his yellowed fangs. They tried to tell him that he couldn’t do that and he would explain to them that it was not something he could control. He just did that whenever someone tried to take a picture of him. They tried distracting him, giving no warning before suddenly opening the shutter, but Joseph got his shot.) with that of his cat’s.
“Ah yeah, cat I.D., cat I.D.,” Joseph sings, dancing around the room with his silly I.D. in his hand, “I gots me..” he lets off the maniacal idiot grin I believe he saves only for me, “a cat I.D.!”
‘His expression looks just like the one he seems to get every time he steps into the D.M.V.’ I think, sending me into giggling laughter on the floor.
“Fucking cat I.D.!” I call out again between gasping laughter. I’m on Guinness number five, however I had found his little cat I.D. picture pretty humorous from the get go. The picture, simply glued over his old photo, is of his cat “Little” (named by his little sister for the size the cat seemed to be in a perpetual state of as it grew up) staring at the lens straight on. The glare of the flash is reflected harshly in the eyes of the cat, but there is no “red eye” because the picture is in black and white, giving this tiny creature a very serious and fierce alien-like stare. Underneath the animal’s head the edge of a glass fishbowl can be seen.
Joseph is turning up the Tom Waits soundtrack in my bedroom. Tom is shouting about someone being a “big shot down at the slaughterhouse” over a stopstart stripped-down rhythm. Joseph comes bounding back into my dimly lit living room where I am still on my back, light as air on my hearty meal of Guinness.
“I’ve got to do something with this thing.”
“Indeed you do, Jo,” I say, finally composing myself. You’d just have to see the picture to understand how funny it is; the expression on Little’s face so much like a little kitty mug shot.
“Hey...” say Joseph, after a little pause. “Do you need some more beer?”
“No, no. I think I’m doin’ okay down here old buddy,” I reply. “I gotta slow down anyways.” Joseph doesn’t drink at all and that always puts my alcohol consumption in the spotlight whenever we spend time together, which is quite often. All his other friends say that he doesn’t need it. I think it’s just that he doesn’t want it. Joseph doesn’t need anything. Joseph writes his own life.
“Well", he says with a decisive air, “I think you nee some more beer, my friend. In fact, I think we need to pay a little visit to the “cownah stoe”!” he declares, affecting the best East Oakland ghetto drawl he can muster. He has already pulled on his tweed overcoat, car keys jingling.
Suddenly I leap from the floor, Joseph’s energy temporarily clearing my head of its foamy Guinness fog. “Meow.” I say in agreeance. I fetch my coat, hat, turn up the music (just for the landlord downstairs), and we are out the door.
“Ding dong, ding dong....”declares the cheery little major-third intervaled door chime as me and Joseph enter the Seven Eleven. Joseph is in first, his confident strides leading the way, cat ID in his pocket. I follow close behind trying to keep a straight face. The whole place is lit up bright with the fluorescents, giving it the feel of a crime scene, which seems glaringly appropriate to the occasion. It appears devoid of people, except for a scrawny speed freak with a handlebar moustache and brown web-backed baseball cap which says “Pope Valley Turkey Shoot ‘96”on it. He is busy paying the cashier for his hot dog. The extra relish is dripping onto the counter despite the liberal amount of waxed paper and paper napkins wadded up beneath it. The cashier appears to be quite miffed about this, despite the freak’s shaky attempts at cleaning up the mess. I follow Jesse to the far right of the store.
We both stand in front of the liquor selection, cheap beers, and cheap wines, wine coolers stand before us behind glass like multi-colored soldiers awaiting our command.
“Now, if I was a cat...” Joseph quietly mutters, sending me instantly into stifled hysterics. Joseph shoots a glare at me and I manage to gain control over myself. “...what would I want to drink?” he continues. “Ah yes,” he declares, a satisfied yet still serious smile crossing his face as he opens the glass door and retrieves a bottle of pink wine “a fine “Wild Vines Strawberry-Flavored White Zinfandel”, choice libation amongst my species!”
Joseph turns a split second 180 degrees and immediately begins to head up the front counter where Mr. Pope Valley Speed Freak has just finished paying for his green hot dog experiment and is heading for the front door. I take a longer route along the far isle and meet up with him just as he is placing the bottle before the counterperson. To this I add a 5 ½ ounce can of Friskies Turkey and Jiblets Kitty Dinner. I notice much to my satisfaction out of the corner of my eye that this almost gets the best of Joseph, but his dead serious façade remains stone other than a slight liquefying ‘round the eyes, as he lays the ID out with our purchase, slapping it onto the table like a final winning card in a blackjack game.
The counter man, a very tall Arabian fellow in his late 30’s, takes the ID, looks at it briefly, and then replies, simply and without hesitation, “This is not you.” as he plunks it back down on the counter. He does it so matter-of-factly that it’s as if he has simply been given an out-of-state or outdated driver’s license. There is silence, then he repeats: “That is not you.”
“Oh yeah, I know. I’ve got to get a new ID,” Joseph says. “I was so tired when they took that picture. I really didn’t look like myself.”
“That is not you.” he replies again, as if Joseph was simply trying to sneak some older brother’s ID past him, like he had been through this countless times before, like he was bored with all these people bringing in their pet’s IDs to try to buy wine.
“No, no, see, that was before the operation,” Joseph says, changing his story mid-scam, “I just got out of the hospital. Really, that’s me.”
“That is not you.” the counterperson replies, not a sliver of humor in his gravely voice. “That is cat.” He has a nametag on his uniform, it says “DEEP”.
Joseph gives a stage laugh. “Oh yeah, I know, it’s just such a bad picture. Really, man, it’s cool. I’m twenty-two years old, I was born on April 13th, 1975.”
“That is cat. Cat. Not you. Cat!” DEEP’s voice is finally picking up. Joseph follows suit.
“I am so tired of this! Look, I had an operation! I’m 22 years old! I used to look like a cat. See? I got this ID two years ago! Here,” Joseph reaches into his wallet and pulls out his social security card “See? It says “Joseph Shorpkenoff ”; same name!”
“That is cat!” DEEP’s temper is taking center stage. “Get out! I call police on you!” The Tranquil Trance of Total Detachment he was exuding before has now been utterly shattered. All these kids with their fake IDs, and now this! That is not him! That is cat!
“Look, look, look....” Joseph brings down the volume of his voice, making a “simmer down” motion with his palms turned downward, acting diplomatic, as DEEP stares at him with an angry thick silence. “Look, see?” Joseph is pointing at his face, the expression of which he has fashioned into as much of a cat-like form as he can muster, eyes wide, maniacal open mouth with raised upper lip to emphasize fangs. When he then proceeds to push out his ears with fingers to complete the effect I can contain my silence no longer, blowing an evening’s worth of cool, laughter issuing forth with orgasmic uncontrollability.
“Get out! Fucking cat man!” DEEP pulls the bottle and can behind the counter. “You are banned from store! THAT IS NOT YOU!”
“Dammit!” cries Joseph, unable to keep a straight face, his voice breaking, yet still pushing the fury through. “I’m hungry, I need to eat! Gimme the food at least!”
“This is cat food! Get out!” screams DEEP, looking as if he may soon blow a blood vessle or something.
“Okay, okay. I’m sorry,” says Joseph, lowering his voice, the hands of diplomacy returning, “I’ll just have a pack of Catnip Lights.”
“Need ID for cigarettes!” cries, DEEP. When he realizes that “Catnip” is not a brand name for cigarettes he becomes transfixed in a wordless fury of supreme magnitude, throwing the cat ID at Joseph and picking up the phone.
“Go ahead, call the police, they’ll verify it!” Joseph is screaming as I begin to drag him toward the door. He pretends to fight me in order to remain. “I got rights! I was born deformed! I don’t have to put up with this shit!” He emphasizes “shit!” with a wild arm gesture, his hand catching me on the side of the face. At this, of all things, Joseph lets out his first laugh. I continue shoving him, this time with more conviction, toward the door. Joseph is screaming something about him not fearing the police because of his nine lives as the major-third-have-a-nice-day-happy-chime sounds and then we are outside.
When we finished laughing we found that there was nothing left to do so we head back to my house. On the way home I realize that that was probably the first time Joseph had ever even tried to buy alcohol. I laugh to myself quietly about this, shaking my head in astonishment, as Joseph turns the corner onto my street.
“What?” he asks.
“Nothing, nothing...” I say. I turn up the stereo. I look over at Joseph, then back to the road. “Fucking cat ID,” I mutter, continuing to shake my head.
Posted by Derailed Freight Train at 11:28 PM
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