Cats, not the musical Part I

When I was a kid I had two cats: Rajah and Shadow. Rajah was a feline princess and orange tabby that was neurotic, and I still have the six-inch scar to prove so after she clawed me in panic from seeing her mirrored reflection.

She was a hurricane kitty, meaning we adopted her after Andrew hit the Florida coast and washed away her mama.

That's probably not how it happened, but either way when it was time to adopt her, Judy, my mom, picked me up from school early to play a car game. She gave me a pen and pad of paper, and a kiss, and told me to write it down. So I wrote
Kiss, and we began driving.

It was a riddle. And thinking back on the past 17 years since this test I admit that to this day I'm not a superstar at solving riddles, word problems or ___ is to ___, as ___ is to ___. I blame it on the thick curtains of creativity blinding my logic...

We drove to the Jupiter Inlet. I don't remember what it was like that day, but I'm sure the waves were rolling in deep and into the waterways.

I'm sure the million-dollar South Florida yachts were bouncing bows while clinging on to their last yards of tried-but-failed tow in fishing rods.

I'm sure the boat-less locals were casting lines as their their scruffed bare feet squished between their toes the bait and guts water that had sloshed over the bucket beside them.

I'm sure there were palm trees, the air was salty, and the lighthouse stood as bold as ever.

Maybe we didn't get out of the car, but I wrote inlet not because I had figured it out, but because Judy pointed to the inlet and asked me what it was.

It gets better because we went to McDonalds. We went through the drive-thru, and Judy ordered an iced ted. She pointed to it, and told me to write it down. So I wrote
tea. We sat there in the car, parked in a lot and eating McDonalds as I studied the list, not because I had the notion to but because Judy told me to. My list read:


She was trying to spell out
KITTEN, but we didn't get that far. I'm pretty sure Judy mentioned it raining cats and dogs, and I began to imagine what that would really be like.

And, eventually, Rajah came into my life as the first noble cat after a history of hard-to-beat dogs. She was worth it (see photo).

Shadow showed up a fluffball of grey that was like putty in my hands. He melted in all the ways a cat could: drooling when purring, drooling when asleep, lying limp when picked up, lying limp when being spun around by a 12-year-old only child desperate for entertainment.

Shadow was what I envision a mentally handicapped sloth to be, only cuter and softer.

When Judy and I road tripped it from Florida to the Wild West for the first time we had books on tape, one specifically being The Shadow. The cover was a Dick Tracy knock-off imitating the detective-like character who could vanish behind corners in some crime ridden city. The narrator would say in a deep voice, "Who knows? The Shadow Knows!"

During Judy's time as a single mother with her daughter in college and only two cats to talk to, I'd witness her borderline psychotic cat communication on occasion when I visited.

One of the best outbursts was a late-night couch potato session in front of the tv, when out of nowhere Judy would look at Shadow, furrow her brow and cup her lips to lower her voice and say, "Who knows? The Shadow knows."

Awesome. But what I really said was, "Mom..." And she would say... nothing. She'd smile and scrunch her nose as if she knew her jokes stunk. I'm sure Shadow dug it.

I ditched pets that had to travel beyond glass bowls during college until that six-month stint with the Hell Demon came along. I called it Blackie, BK for short, though Lane Harlow and others who had blacklisted BK probably referred to it as the What The Fuck, Cat.

Blackie. I stood there at the pound, staring at a quad of kennels and chose:

Miss Angel: fat, cute, rolls around, and the card says loves ice cubes. And look! She's licking my hand... Aww...


Yes, I'll take the black one that looks malnourished, the black on that's swatting at my hand, the black one that reminds me of a bouncy ball in a foot locker. Yes, that's the pick of the litter!

And what a mistake that was. After too many days cleaning up after Blackie I was over it. A pool of diarrhea on the bean bag, on my bed sheet, on my vest that I still wear today...

Too many times Lane Harlow locked her up in a room. Too many times I got a call by a neighbor saying, "We found your cat." Too many times I repeated the phrase, "Well thanks, but it's an outdoor cat."

And too many times BK left me for the hair salon babes down Remington Street until one day BK just never returned. And I moved to Europe. And that was five years ago.

And now there's QT.

Cover me baby

I once told a boyfriend of mine in high school that he was the frontman for a cover band, and then he broke up with me. He should have, being labeled a cover band means you lack creativity as an artist to a point where you can't make your own music. No one likes to be called a copycat, not even serial killers in Sigourney Weaver 1990 thrillers.

But let's say, as a musician, your status is at a pro level. Now you've earned the right to cover songs because a) we all know you're not a copycat, and b) you know that covering a song isn't a verbatim ordeal -- it can still carry individuality. This makes all the difference. In my opinion, experienced bands have higher potential to play good songs in a good way, and that's that... be it covers or self-created pieces.

Still, this doesn't work out for every song a good band has covered (hence the potential and no concrete establishment of the claim). I recently heard Tom Yorke and Sparklehorse cover a Pink Floyd song, and I thought I was going to gauge my eyes out as an equal distraction. And I love Radiohead.

My Morning Jacket tried Rocket Man, and I thought someone was drowning.

I also think Rufus Wainwright's "Across The Universe" voice is extra nasally and sounds like a deflated balloon when someone slowly squeaks out air. Then again Rufus, some songs are just too good they can't be covered better.

Bob Dylan has proved over the decades that he will never fall into that category, everyone with a voice covers his song better than him. But Bob I still love ya, you scary, old, hat-wearing skeleton poet you.

But I love music and I like covers, a lot. Especially when they're done well and with some new flavor. I bet that high school sweetie of mine's band can wail on Zeppelin covers. CCR's I Heard It Through The Grapevine is what, over seven minutes long? And no one seems to mind because it rocks.

Aretha Franklin covered The Weight by The Band and pulled a rock-soul fusion of glory bleeding through speakers that's just electrifying. You can hear she's always liked that song, and maybe that's the principal musicians really should follow before they decide to cover a song: love it like you wish you made it first. That's how I feel about New Belguim's Bier de Mars.

Anyway, here are some covers below I've been especially diggin', but know that a lot of these covers are acoustic ones. Most of these links will take you to YouTubes or songs posted by, and if you haven't checked this site out you can thank me later. Welcome back mix tapes.

TV On The Radio covers Mr. Grieves (by The Pixies)

The Shins cover Strange Powers (by The Magnetic Fields)

Mumford & Sons cover Cousins (by Vampire Weekend)

Fleet Foxes cover It Ain't Me Babe (by Bob Dylan)

The Eels cover Fools Rush In (by Elvis)

Emmy The Great covers Where Is My Mind (by The Pixies)

Florence & The Machine cover Postcards From Italy (by Beirut)

Elliott Smith covers Jealous Guy (by John Lennon)

Rogue Wave covers Maps (by Yeah Yeah Yeahs)

Metric covers Don't Think Twice It's Alright (by Bob Dylan)

Mates of State cover These Days (by Jackson Browne)

Regina Spektor covers Real Love (by The Beatles)

It's Real Love,