Episode Fifty Seven: Taking a Knee


It was early morning and I was shocked not to be greeted by Gummy clamouring about the house expressing her hunger pangs to everyone within a 40km radius.  Instead, I found her sitting in a dignified upright position on the coffee table yelling, “Catnip! Catnip!”  I definitely have a drug-positive philosophy with the cats, but it was a little early for the proverbial “wake-and-bake”.

I approached her asking whether she’d prefer kibble and she said, “No! I’m breaking my morning ritual in solidarity with catnip.”  I was utterly confused until Virtute passed by and slyly explained, “She’s talking about Colin Catnip, the football player.” Ohhhh, a light flipped in my mind, “You mean Kaepernick, Colin Kaepernick.”  “Yes,” explained Gumption maintaining her pose.  “We all have to stop our usual routines. We need to disrupt and stop pretending like everything is ok.  Catnip is taking a knee because he wants to open a discussion about how to stop the careless and senseless and targeted murder of Black people.”  I told Gumption I was aware of his action and we talked about how many people, young children, other athletes, fans, cheerleaders were following suit.

I asked Gumption why she decided to start her intervention into our morning routine.  Virtute is normally the “activisty” cat and Gummy is usually a bit more anxious and skittish to wade into serious conversations.  She finally broke her stance, puttered about, and approached me. In a quieter voice than I’m accustomed to hearing she explained, “It’s time for everyone to have these conversations and for those conversations to move towards action.  This history and current context of anti-Black racism that arrives in the form of prisons, police murders, appropriation, dismissal, and even backlash against Catnip is all of our responsibility.  We need to talk as families, as non-Black families about our responsibility to these struggles. About taking leadership from Black folks and in particular the queer/trans*/femme-led movements arising around Black Lives Matter. We need to spread interventions like the one that Colin Catnip popularized.”

Virtute, normally the know-it-all in the household, moved closer and listened.  We all sat listening for a long time.  And finally, Virtute piped up, “She’s right. I can wait for breakfast too. Let’s talk about it. Let’s make a plan for what we can do.” We sat in the kitchen thinking and decided a first step would be to make a financial contribution to Black Lives Matter-Toronto and to continue this conversation inside the house and with others.

Gumption, began to eat her kibble, finally letting out a sigh and saying, “Thank you Catnip.”


Episode Fifty Six: Summer Sixteen

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Virtute scurried his way through the slightly open crack of the screen door as it rocked itself shut.  The weather was getting cooler and he knew that the long winter time would soon be approaching.  Gumption, as she is known to do, was passing the afternoon lazing around in their cat condo.  Whenever anyone asks her why she isn’t up and about like Virtute, she likes to respond, “I’m keeping his spot warm for him!”  Such is the life of a cat.

But with such a busy summer time coming to an end, today seemed just a bit more overwhelming and they both took a deep breath as the crisp air that had enveloped Virtute’s coat mixed with the radiating warmth of Gummy’s sedentary heating technique.

As I caught the cats in the process of their ritual kinetic transfer, I asked them what stood out the most about this particular summer.  Virtute, always eager to chat, curled in a bit and then began, “What perhaps began as an unfreezing of the cold winds of change that had been blowing over the winter, has now erupted into the beginnings of some powerful storms of justice.  From Black Lives Matter to the Standing Rock Sioux resistance to the Dakota Pipeline, from the refusals to stand for the US national anthem to the assertions of Black and Indigenous ways of being in mainstream music and arts, this year has shown us glimpses of the worlds beyond these oppressive power structures.”  He paused, if only momentarily, to check if Gumption was going to jump in and seeing her slowly fading back to sleep, he continued, “I really thought this year would be the year of Drake – the summer 16 we’d all been waiting for – but the release of such incredible music by Blood Orange, Frank Ocean, Chance the Rapper and so many others really has me re-thinking it all. I feel like Summer 16 was more than Drake could have imagined.”

Virtute, wise beyond his years, stopped and paused. He had found the perfect temperature and was now content.  I was about to go on with my day, when Gumption stirred herself awake. “Is he done?”, she whispered so inaudibly that I could barely catch it.  Yes, I assured her – which is never really a sure thing with Virtue.  “Good.” She said. “He’s definitely not wrong about this summer, but I’m still scared from watching Stranger Things and can’t wait for the winter sixteen to begin so that I get more cuddles at night. I can never look at my laser pointer cat toy the same way ever again.”