Episode Thirty: 2014 Year in Review


Recently, Jenny’s sister Joyce and her husband Tomi purchased Virtute and I the most thoughtful gift, the critically acclaimed book How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity: A Guide to Financial Freedom. We’ve been reading the book together and picking up some important strategies for improving our blog. Virtute has complained ad nauseum about some of the cheeky “cute cat” strategies that he calls “base and crass,” but we’ve both been able to agree on one piece of great advice from the book – we need a “year in review” post.

Since this month marks the one year anniversary of Diaries of a Cat Named Virtute, we thought this week is as good a time as any to do one.  I asked Virtute if he could talk about some of the more profound moments for this year: the good times, the bad times, the music that touched him, the memories he made.  He’s been pacing around the house all day and I wasn’t sure that this would actually come out before year end, but then he finally sat at the foot of my bed and began:

“I think I’ll remember 2014 as a year of intellectual and emotional development, one where  I started to reflect upon home & belonging, about what it means to live in Toronto and all the small things that make this city so perplexing.  It’s been a year where we’ve spent a long time talking about the meaning of friendship, community, family, and our responsibilities to each other.”

I asked him if he could reflect on some of the challenges he’s faced this year.  “Well, it’s been a year full of them, hasn’t it?” he replied.  “There was the deep pipe freeze in January, the famous battle against the hated Lunchbox, the time when Gumption went missing, my bladder obstruction, but there was nothing more challenging than the day that Jenny played Coldplay. I think we’ve mostly come out pretty good this year though.”

When prompted about his favourite music of 2014, he noted “I did take a peak at the Pitchfork Top 50 of 2014 and frankly I was disappointed that Taylor Swift’s 1989 did not rank #1. I mean #31 is still respectable, but only Pitchfork could dig up 30 albums that could possibly have made my booty shake less than T.Swizzle.” Then without prompting, he acknowledged that he already had a best album of 2015. I asked how that could be possible? He said, “Well if Drake keeps his promise and drops Views from the 6, then I can’t see any album being as incredible. It might be the album of the century!” Virtute is loyal to a fault.

Finally, I asked him what it was like to have such an open persona online.  The mood turned a bit more serious and he flicked his tail in the air cautiously before imparting, “It’s definitely intimidating – I mean everyone now asks me about my love of etymology, they chastise me about my relationship with Gumption, and mostly I’m reminded of my responsibilities to my adoring fans.” He smiled and then asked, “Do you think we’ve completed the 5 major steps to achieve media dominance in this post?” before quickly replying, “you’re not going to include that last part are you?”

Onwards to 2015! Year of the Cat.

Episode Twenty Nine: Winter Solstice


Virtute has been doing his best to get all the vitamin D he can over the last few weeks.  He’s the kind of cat that can be a little down during the long gloomy days in the deepest depths of winter.   We’ve been chatting a lot recently about darkness and how we cope with it as mammals.  I suggested maybe he needed some sort of supplements or one of those fancy lights. He, of course, had other ideas.  “I’m sure that those gadgets and supplements work for folks,” he began, “but it’s not what we need. As we created these large cities and these electrical systems we sharply severed our connection with the moon cycles and with our rotation around the sun.  It’s destabilizing in a profound way.  I think what we need is to re-engage with those cycles in meaningful ways.”

I thought about this for a while and then had to state the obvious, that as city dwellers it’s not really easy to connect with those things.  “Yes,” he said pensively staring out the window, “but we do have opportunities.  I know that each year you and Jenny spend the solstice walking the Leslie Spit late at night – and it’s in those moments that you become conscious of the moon and its powers.  Or when you sit down with Jenny’s family during the Mid-Autumn festival and share mooncake – where do you think that practice comes from? What if that was more regular? What if you spent time observing? Engaging? Remembering that time and space are inseparable?”  I had to call him on this –  how could a house cat like him know such things?  He frowned, “What do you think I do each night while you sleep?  I make my way onto my stoop in your bedroom and watch the cycles of the moon. And in the day? I spend it searching for the position of the sun.  We are all just flecks of time-space in relation to these celestial movements.”

I told him people think he should write astrology. He retorted that, “We should all live astrology.”

Episode Twenty Eight: Toronto


Virtute and I spend a lot of our days discussing the concept of “home”.  You know, what does it mean to feel “home” somewhere? How is “home” wrapped up in our sense of belonging? What is the effect of displacement and colonialism on “home”?  Often Gumption sits next to us half listening and thinking about other things – like the tastiness of her last meal or the surprising suppleness of her favourite green bouncy ball.

A few days ago, I asked Virtute whether or not he considered Toronto home.  He paced around thinking and then hopped up on top of his cat condo and I knew I was in for a monologue.  “I think Toronto is familiar, but it’s hard for me to call it home.”  I asked him to explain.  “Well, I’ve come to know this city intimately.  I’m drawn to  the screeching sounds of the street cars as they amble along College Street and the distinct chime of the TTC doors opening and closing – the way that guy at Yonge and Dundas screams loudly for you to ‘Believe in the Lord’.  I can smell Toronto too – or at least the enunciated smells that float about through various neighbourhoods – like the way our new hood smells like Kit-Kats because of the Nestle plant or how Chinatown smells of fresh markets, cooking oil, incense, ocean water, and packaged electronics or how the Danforth smelled of grilled meat and used bookstores.  I can orient myself by finding the CN Tower rising above the city – despite the best attempt by condo developers to block it from our view – and I can watch as the moon dances across the tip of the tower late at night. But that’s not what makes it familiar.”

I could tell by now that Virtute, etymology nerd that he is, was likely referring to the root of the word meaning “like family” or “like kin”.  So I was anxious to hear where he would go next. “Toronto is familiar,” he continued, “in the way that we organize our relationships across time-space.  We desire companionship and community – yet emphasize the importance of being alone. We bask in the warm glow of celebrity – yet show no emotion or care as members of an audience.  It’s no wonder they call us the screwface capital of north america.  We are a city created out of the experience of displacement and migration, but one with a long history of interconnection and contestation of space.  We are a city that sees itself as progressive and caring, but we learn to walk past people freezing on the concrete sidewalks.  We are a city in the process of great change and transformation, but often at the expense of those of us who create its cultures and quirks.  We are a city of many souls – and in that way – we are family – however tenuously. Those are my views from the 6…”

Gumption had been listening with greater attention than usual and then finally interjected….”We make city like we make family like we make home.”  Virtute, frustrated and possibly a little aloof turned to Gumption and demanded greater explanation. Gumption now caught up in batting the string dangling from the cat condo, paused, and replied, “Trial and error.”

As she let the string continue to sway like a pendulum…we heard the squeak of a street car coming to a stop.