Squeak Toy, the all-feline band out of Northeast Minneapolis, played in the alley between Jefferson and Adams Saturday night.
And all the coolest cats were there.
It’s not common knowledge, but Liza Bean trained classically as a kitten, playing her way through the cabarets and poobs of Eastern Europe. She has always been light on the details, although she did once tell me, after too much absinthe and not enough cat nip, that she shared a rail car with Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello “somewhere cold” in the early 90s.
If asked she still insists he stole her lighter.
Come to think of it, this may have something to do with her resume’s notation that there are legal restrictions prohibiting her from working in Bratislava…
Squeak Toy has been practicing in the basement (or, as the drummer calls it "the abasement"): Liza Bean Bitey (of the Minneapolis Biteys) on electric violin; Stumpy “Lucky” Strikes on drums; Ignatz D. Katz on upright bass; and on piano a large long-hair with yellow eyes introduced to me, less than cryptically, I thought, as “Hairball” .
They take to the garage roof promptly at 11:00.
The alley, which has been steadily filling since 8:00, falls absolutely silent.
Standing on her back feet, violin tucked under her chin, Liza Bean smiles. She points with her bow, first to the crowd gathered in the alley below, an eclectic mixture of cats of both the four-legged and two-legged variety, then to the moon above.
The microphone is set up, as she likes it, for a much taller cat, and she lifts her chin.
The alley shakes as the crowd responds in kind. “Yeeeeeeeeowwwwwwwwww!”
And the crowd’s response has not finished before her bow strikes the strings and their discordant and frenetic rendition of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” tears the shingles off our shed.
The alley erupts.
I step quickly to the edges of the crowd, leaving its center to the whirling, spinning revelry of the young.
Bart, a barrel-chested biker of a cat sidles up next to me, slides one paw around my waist, refills my cup with the other. “Where you been, kitty cat?”
“Right here waiting for you, tiger.” I smile, point to his cup. “Hey, now, don’t forget to fill your own.”
“Naw, kitty cat, they’re testing at my job, you know.” He chuckles, a deep-chested rumble of a sound. “I’ve gotta be clean, baby, clean or I’m gone, daddy, gone.”
“Don’t they make things to counteract those tests?”
“Synthetic urine?” he asks. He smiles, his hazel eyes sparkling in the dark. “Tried it, baby doll. Thought I’d never get it down. That stuff tastes awful.”
And with that, he disappears, leaving only his smile hanging in the dark.
What time was it that Pork Muscle J. Hamfat and his sidekick Pupples Old Bean slid down the neighbor’s chimney and came back up with a couch? Was that before the trashcan fire or after? Was it before the toast to Orangey McBiterson, the Stripe? (A hundred glasses raised: “To The Stripe! He never met a man he didn’t bite!” and the roaring approval: SKOL!”)
The night is a blur of laughing faces.
The crowd makes its demands known and Mary is pulled, laughing and kicking, to the garage roof to sing “Danny Boy”.
Marynka is seen with a tall and disreputable Russian who drinks champagne from one of her shoes.
Cheryl is passed, paw to paw, over the crowd and down the alley only to reappear wearing a tinfoil crown and using two garbage can lids as cymbals.
“The damages, man,” Ignatz breathes into the microphone, surveys the crowd below. “We’re coverin’ all the damages, man…”
I awake on the back staircase, a pillow under my head, an overcoat tucked in around me.
I blink into the morning sunlight, look out the back window. There is nothing amiss. There is no indication that last night was anything but another Saturday night.
I blink some more.
I step over the snoring bodies of friends and acquaintances and make my way into the living room, where I find Liza Bean curled on the couch between Pupples Old Bean and Dolly Gee Squeakers. I give her a gentle nudge.
“There’s an Easter Egg Hunt in the park across the street,” I whisper. “I know how much you like to run up the backs of little kids.”
Liza Bean smiles but does not open her eyes. “I already know where all the eggs are,” she yawns, arching her back.
“All the eggs,” she purrs, slyly, “are in the fridge.”
And with that, Liza Bean Bitey, of the Minneapolis Biteys, goes back to sleep.
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