I Moved To Oaxaca

Saturday, April 17, 2004

1986 seems like a crazy long time ago, like it wasn't even me. Or maybe I just don't have a good mental picture of myself during those years. I was working at the savings and loan, and living in a basement studio in East San Diego, over on 48th St and Orange. I later moved to an apartment chopped out of a house trucked out from Colonial Williamsburg, on Florida St. in San Diego, just down from the F Street Bookstore, a clean, well-lighted place for porn. It was a ten-minute walk to Balboa Park, or my favorite udon restaurant in Hillcrest; the 7-11 and the laundromat were 10 minutes the other direction. But in the spring of 1986 I was living in a neighborhood where I didn't even walk to the car by myself after dark, where a coworker, who lived one block behind me and one block over, came out one morning to find blood streaks on the side of his truck where a stabbed delivery man had dragged himself away. And where my landlord, a short, solid truck driver named Sterling kept brawling gang members out of our backyard with his .32. The landlord was married to Jean, the mother of Susan, the girlfriend of my friend JT. It wasn't so bad. I had been in San Diego three years by then, and was living with Mike, my spineless boyfriend at the time, and taking classes together at Claremont Mesa community college. For fun I'd hang out in the park, sit under the Australian fig tree, or visit the model railroad museum or the zoo, ride the giraffe on the carousel and jam my fingers plucking rings off a wooden boom as the carousel went around, hoping for the brass-colored ring and a free-ride ticket. Or drive east on I-8 to Julian or Cuyamaca for a day of hiking, or west and a swim or stroll at Ocean Beach. Or to Kerie's for role-playing games.

One of my community college classmates asked around class for anyone who wanted a kitten; one of the cats at his house in Pacific Beach had had four, and he was looking for homes. Mike and I drove over one night after class and took a look, and I said I'd take one of the siamese ones when they were old enough. I had Fuzzy, but it had been seven years since she'd been a kitten, so why not? I said I'd pick her up when the kitten was eight weeks old, but as it turned out, that weekend my friends all went out to the San Diego hinterland for a weekend of live-action role-playing. I asked surfer dude to come by my apartment with the kitten, but he spaced, so it wasn't until the following weekend that I drove out with Mike to get the kitten. I looked in the nest box and saw only two kittens, both tabby. Where's the siamese one, I asked. Oh, my girlfriend wanted it so I let her take it, he said. Dude. Fuzzy was my fourth cat; all had been mack tabbies. Wanting something a little different, I chose the one with white feet and nose.

The first thing I remember about Izzy was her sitting on my shoulder in the car for the ride home. She's always liked riding around on my shoulders, or climbing up my leg. I used to stroll around with her stuck to my jeans. With her enormous ears and Barrymore chin she was awfully cute, but all I remember from her kittenhood are the constant attacks. Bite, bite, scratch, and always hard enough to draw blood. And not just me, or Mike, but anyone who came in the house was fair game as long as they extended a hand to pet her. Without abatement. And heaven help you if she found you indisposed, like on the phone or the toilet. Damn. I was all set to give her a cute name, Ysabeau, after Michelle Pfeifer's character in Ladyhawke, but I soon switched it to Izzy, the marine in Aliens who blows herself and Gorman up with a grenade. And the attacks continued. I tried not to take it personally. It's not like she ever did it out of hatred, the way an abused animal might. I really don't know why she had to choose the time and manner of petting, or why she'd lure people into petting her by rubbing on their legs, or even just leap, claw, and run away; the reason I keep coming back to all these years is maybe she's got some throwback wild gene. She was so bad in the Florida St. apartment that I seriously mulled over having her put down before she really hurt someone. But as she wasn't hateful, I decided not to. And, eventually, age slowed her down some. She still bites me, hard, but sometimes she gives me just a warning bite or slap. Mostly, though, she sleeps. She turned 18 years old this week. She's a pain in the ass, but all good relationships are, somewhere or sometime.

Happy birthday, Izzy Vasquez.


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