There is no better time to visit one’s recently employed cat than at 11:00 on a Tuesday night.
And that’s because cat bars don’t open until 11:00.
Of course, by the time you arrive, there’s a line. Cats love the idea of a line enforced with a velvet rope, and I am escorted to the head of it by a burly black cat. I’d met George Foreman at previous events, and I’ve never known him to speak.
“Lovely night,” I say.
The large black feline – the possible offspring between, say, a domestic cat and a four-legged bowling ball – places a paw at the small of my back and guides me past those in line and into the dimly lit hall that leads one into The Nip and The Saucer.
The Nip and The Saucer: where the well-heeled and the, well, heels, gather for gin and tonics.
For this is not just any bar, but the bar.
“The key to a well-functioning cat bar,” Liza Bean had said to me once, “is manners. The tilt of one’s head, the way the eye may linger too long, even the set of one’s jaw is a matter of observation and speculation. Politeness, above all, Pearl. Unless one wishes to fight.”
The cat smiles enigmatically, a small cat wrapped in a much larger cat’s personality. “Sometimes, of course, one wishes to fight.”
The long hall from the front entrance to the establishment itself is not much to see. Raw brick, rough hardwood floors, lighting of an insufficient wattage hang from opaque glass pendants, leaving pools of specificity in a hallway that grows more removed from the outside world with each step.
At the end of the hallway is a set of solid oak doors that rise to the ceiling.
We stop in front of them, and I gaze up at the sheer height of the entrance.
I look over at George Foreman. “Just in case we gotta get a tractor in here, am I right, George?”
George lift his chin toward the door. Go ahead.
And with that, he turns and heads back to his red velvet rope.
I push open the doors – and the opulence of the Roaring Twenties is revealed.
“Pearl!” I turn to find Pupples rushing toward me. Pupples is one of those friends of Liza Bean’s that fits into the scheme of things primarily through his apparent inability to fit, even in one’s imagination, anywhere else. He is a small cat, a nervous cat, one with a habit of running a claw under his collar while his jaw juts out just so, as if the collar, clearly too large, is actually too tight.
One imagines that Pupples McBean grew up watching a lot of Art Carne.
Pupples embraces me, points an extended claw in the direction of the deceptively small striped cat sauntering toward us.
It’s Liza Bean.
Pupples presses a paw against his chest in a gesture of gentlemanly ardor. “I ndone what I bin asked to do, and now if you’ll excuse me, I gots dames what need leerin’.” He bows extravagantly. “Poil,” he says.
I close my eyes, nodding slowly. “Mr. McBean.”
“There you are!” Liza Bean Bitey purrs. “Pearl! Daaaaarling!” The cat impulsively does a quick lap of my ankles then leaps to a table. I reach over and scratch her behind an ear.
“Really, Pearl,” she says, sitting primly and adjusting her collar. “I’m working.”
Is there more? Well of course there is! Come back tomorrow – we’ll have a drink or three and watch the cat work…