Virtute has a secret. I’m not supposed to share this secret and I feel bad that I am going to post this anyway, but sometimes Virtute can be far too humble. Each day, during the mid afternoon, Virtute takes flight. I’m not talking about wearing Air Jordan shoes and attaining significant vertical before a slam dunk, I’m talking about flying. He takes flight. He springs into the air and just proceeds to float there for an inordinate amount of time until finally gravity proves too strong and he comes back to earth. Many people believe this is a myth, but a few of us have seen it with our own eyes.
I realize cats cannot fly, but maybe they can?
Here’s the thing. I’ve asked Virtute about this on a number of occasions and he’s always been very reticent to discuss it. But last week I must have caught him in a particularly sharing mood because when I asked him, “How is it that you can fly?”, he shifted nervously and instead of scampering away he decided to respond to my question. “I fly because…because I believe I can fly.” This was all starting to sound like a bad R.Kelly song, but before I could get my jab in, he continued. “And I practice. I practice and I believe and then I let myself go. Most of the time I hit the ground pretty hard, but what are 9 lives for if you don’t use them all, right? Anyhow, a very very very long time ago – I’m talking millions if not billions of years ago our ancestors in the water wanted to reach the sky and the land. They were probably curious, maybe they feared for their existence, maybe they wished for the impossible, but there came a time when swimming wasn’t enough. They believed that life could exist outside of water and so they practiced and practiced and practiced. And slowly, over millions of years, they willed themselves to explore the skies – and they flew.”
I am somewhat aware of evolutionary theory, although all of this seemed a bit haphazard, but I indulged him – you or your species haven’t had millions of years of practice, how come you can fly? He seemed hurt. He replied, “You choose to stand sixty feet from another human on a hill throwing a ball at extreme velocities at you and swing a bat and hit the ball. That’s pretty improbable. I realize that the success rate of doing this is quite low. But you will yourself to do it for pleasure or pain or possibly for spiritual fulfillment. You practice and then you let yourself go, you practice surrender. I do the same thing. Maybe it’s not recognized as such, but I believe in the improbable. We should all believe in the improbable. But we should always practice. It helps to be prepared.”
And with a yelp and a loud meow, he pounced in the air, hanging for longer than usual before falling back to the ground satisfied with himself.
Yesterday I spent most of the day recuperating from a lingering ear infection/head cold. Virtute, ever the nurturer stayed mostly by my side to hang out and keep me company. Realizing that it must not be a lot of fun for him to just lie around while I sniffle and toss around the bed, I decided to flick open my little green radio. I spun the dial through the stations until I found a moderately acceptable song to land on and dozed off.
I awoke to find Virtute distraught and flustered. I asked him if he was alright and he responded tersely, “Of course I’m not alright! How could you leave the radio tuned into Indie 88?” I felt bad. I definitely shared his sadness. Indie 88 is the corporate radio station that replaced the vibrant and grassroots CKLN, a station I had volunteered with as a programmer for the Word of Mouth News show. I explained that I simply wanted to find a station that was playing modestly decent music and didn’t even consider what station I had landed on.
Virtute rebuffed my response and in a patient, though evidently annoyed tone began, “Even the name ‘indie” in Indie 88 is an attempt at a theft of the true independent spirit of CKLN. From Norman Otis Richmond to Queen Nzinga; from OCAP radio to Don Weitz’s memorable voice rattling out ‘stop shocking our mothers!’, CKLN for over three decades was the heart and soul of grassroots community organizing in this city. It nurtured real independent music like Lal, D’bi Young, and a great number of underground hip hop, punk, reggae, and other musicians. CKLN explored serious political issues that normally don’t make it onto the airwaves: Indigenous resistance, anti-colonial struggles around the world, sex worker struggles, migrant justice, anti-capitalism. It’s replacement by the base and empty vapidness of Indie 88 is made worse by the station’s attempt to claim some sort of radical/social justice cred.”
It was hard to argue with Virtute, while I’ve never fully rejected listening to Indie 88 or actively boycotted the station, there are times when I have such a visceral reaction to something the djs are talking about or a song that they are playing that I have to turn the dial or risk getting into a car accident. Virtute reminded me what it was like that day in 2011 when the CKLN director came into the studio and told Ryan, Yogi, Sheila and I that the station would be going off the air forever in two minutes and we’d have to close it out. He finished, “I was just a kitten lying on Jenny’s bed listening to your show streaming online when that happened. There was no way for you guys to do the station’s history justice. But the memory of CKLN lives on in the spirit of independent and interdependent media that continues to blossom in our communities and though it might have stolen the sound dial and laid claims to some of the station’s cred, Indie 88 will never erase the spirit and histories that CKLN planted in Toronto.”
I turned off the radio and threw on a track by Lal, Virtute smiled cuddled up next to me and we healed together.