The Thousand Dollar Cat

A buddy called me the other day and said, “I don’t know if you realize this, but it’s been a long time since there’s been a post on the blog. These are the dark days and a guy could sure use some relief.”

My response was, “Trust me I know, every morning on my walk I try to conjure up a story for the blog!” (Amelia’s foot surgery has halted our travel for a few months.)

He said, “How about a story about your brother?”

I hemmed and hawed for a few seconds, and finally said, “Like what?”

His response was, “The thousand dollar cat. It’s a classic EJ story.”

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In the early 80s, we were both still living at home.  My brother was there most of the year. He hadn’t moved to Mammoth full time yet, so if it wasn’t ski season he was back home.  I was pretty much always at home with my mom, especially after the debacle on Thanksgiving Lane in Mira Mesa, but that’s another story that might not ever get retold. Anyways I digress, back to the thousand dollar cat.

Our home was a classic single level early 70s Pardee constructed Peñasquitos house. Much to my mom’s delight and sometimes chagrin, it was the house where everyone hung out. The garage had a weight lifting bench and the driveway had a basketball hoop. If we weren’t doing one of those two things, we were hanging out in the garage listening to music and shooting the shit.

On this particular day, someone had posted a flyer about a lost cat on the lamppost in front of our house. They were offering a thousand dollar reward for its safe return. There was an awful black and white photo of the cat with a phone number.

Like any legendary tale, the list of participants has seemed to grown over the years. And truth be told, I can’t remember who was present, but the essence of the story is imprinted in my mind.

We were all hanging out in the garage talking about what we would do with a thousand dollars.

All of a sudden EJ yells, “There’s the goddamn cat.”

And he bolts out of the garage like Carl Lewis exploding out of the starting blocks in the 100 meter dash. The cat is scared shitless and hauls ass straight down the street. All of us are chasing it. Six houses down, where the street makes a right turn is young Jack Jr., the milkman’s kid. We somehow funnel the cat into the milkman’s garage and get the door shut.

EJ points at Jack Jr. and announces, “You’re in for a hundred.”

Then he looks at all of us, “Boys, we are drinking big tonight!!”

We were so excited, but decided it would be smart to let the cat calm down for a few minutes. It was the quickest few minutes on record. In no time at all Jack Jr. and EJ go into the garage through the house to fetch the cat. EJ comes walking out holding the cat by the scruff. We all circle him, fast walk back to our house, and lock the cat in the garage.

Everyone was gathered in the kitchen. We couldn’t believe our good fortune. We were rich!

“G, run outside and get the reward poster,” says EJ.

I rip it off the lamp post, bring it in, and hand it to my brother. He grabs the telephone off the wall and dials the number.

Next thing we know, he blurts out, “Lady we’ve got your cat! Bring a thousand dollars to the corner of Via Cabezon and Paseo Montril. We’ll be waiting for you.”

We are all laughing our asses off listening to EJ sounding like a kidnaper with a ransom demand. Our imaginations are running wild. We keep yelling, thousand dollar cat! Then we start reliving the chase and laugh so hard we’re all crying.

Finally, about an hour later, the lady shows up with cash. We all escort her into the garage.

“That’s not my cat!” she proclaims, staring at all of us in disbelief.

“Are you sure lady?” EJ asks.

“Yes. I’m positive.” She just shakes her head and walks away.

Then depression set in. One moment we were on top of the world, rich beyond belief, only to have our dreams crushed.

And that’s the story of the thousand dollar cat.

The End

Here’s a few photos from that time frame.

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The typical look in the front of our house
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EJ, Freddie, and Acomb
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My brother’s ’72 VW Squareback with a fresh paint job. I inherited it and used it as a company car for Fins, all the way until around 2000.
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My mom is the best! She put up with a lot of shit during that time frame.