In the Cool of the Morning II: The Year of the CatBy Bobby Neal Winters
I was out again on the driveway this morning between 7 and 8. Cup of coffee by my side and listening to my iPhone. Al Stewart’s The Year of the Cat was this morning’s highlight. It was an interesting contrast to Take the Money and Run by the Steve Miller Band.
I enjoy both songs, don’t get me wrong, but there is a difference in quality. Take the Money and Run is fun and bouncy. It doesn’t pause to make a decent rhyme; it doesn’t take the time to do much of anything. It’s fun, but the best I can say about it is that it accomplishes a lot considering how little there is too it: “Ooh-ooh, take the money and run.” That’s about it and it’s all on the surface.
I guess we all choose the level at which we will be snobs. I’ve chosen mine quite low in music. An ant will make distinctions that an elephant doesn’t while the elephant can see much more of the world on its own scale.
For my part, I like the songs that have a level beyond the surface that requires a key to see. My favorite example of this is Hotel California.
It is about cocaine.
That is the key. There are multiple other readings and that is what makes it good, but once you know it is about cocaine to many doors are open to deny the meaning.
The Year of the Cat is about sex. This isn’t a great secret, of course, but I am proud that I figured it out by myself. The fact that millions of other figured it out long before me does not diminish my joy in making this discovery by one atom. That knowledge provides a key that opens the doors necessary to understanding the song.
Before we go any further, I tell those of you who don’t know it that I am a prude.
But there is something about the artful hiding of the sexual/subversive imagery that I enjoy. Someone has encoded a message that is transparent to the experienced who’ve picked up the key, but which is hidden from the innocent. There is something good in shielding the innocent for at least a while longer. It is good to delay until the appropriate time the taking of those steps that can’t be untaken.
Along these lines, there is a qualitative difference between the work of Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel--to pick only two--that lines up along this same continuum. Springsteen is an artist; Joel is a hack. There, I said it.
After the music, I called my brother and as he and I were talking, one of the family cats--Tyson--came in sight. He’d caught--and killed by all appearances--a bird that he was carrying in his mouth. He came up onto the porch and met Stars, who is another one of our cats and his arch-enemy. Not wanting to risk losing his prize, I suppose, he hopped back down off the porch and went out onto the driveway.
There, on the driveway, he set to begin the final process of eating his prize. This required opening his mouth, however. It was at this point we learned that the bird was not dead; he was simply playing dead. Tyson’s mouth opened and the bird, not waiting one second longer, flew on out of sight.
Playing dead is an old trick, but it still works. It is a small thing, but it made the difference between life and death for the bird.
Tyson, for his part, overcame his disappointment, hopped up beside me, and looked into my coffee cup for some consolation prize. Finding none, he went off in search of other adventures.
The bird is gone. For all I know, he has died from his wounds in the short time that has passed. But I believe he’s feeling better. I believe he’s learned something about the ways of cats and of good, old-fashioned tricks and the worms will taste better than they ever have.
And enjoy sitting out on the driveway like never before.