Friday, February 06, 2009

No Rosalita At the Super Bowl Halftime, why not, Bruce??

Rosalita was the most beautiful and athletic cat I have ever encountered in a lifetime full of felines of all breeds and sizes and at least two genders.... Every time I hear Springsteen's signature song, I think of our gorgeous Abyssinian now in Cat Nirvana.

About 25 years ago, my wife & I lucked into getting last minute tickets to a Springsteen concert in DC. It was a few years after Born to Run, but before Born in the USA vaulted him into the rock empyrean. The concert was one of the best I've ever attended, and I saw it unencumbered or unenhanced with the aid of alcohol or other mind-altering substances, a rare occasion for a fellow who's seen The Who live five times, and the Stones and Hendrix and many others in varying states of exaltation.

Soon after, we bought an Abyssinian cat from a cattery in McLean, VA, sired by a San Francisco showcat named Spartacus. We paid only the spaying fee, and the two cathouse owners wished us luck, as this particular cat was loaded with plenty of cattitude, as cat owners call tempermental kitties and had been neutered because she was TOO STUCK UP to be exhibited at cat shows with mere mortals, refusing to look pretty and play the role of just another gorgeous feline. Although her original moniker was Penny, we named her Rosalita because on taking her home, she completely and totally disappeared without a trace for almost a week in our apartment, but suddenly appeared at the very moment the song "Rosalita" was playing on the FM radio! She was from then on the de facto ruler of the household, and would display herself prominently whenever guests gathered and elicited oohs and ahs from everyone who liked cats and had an esthetic bent. In this, she competed with our female Maltese dog, Lacey, who would play with David Brinkley's wife's dogs across the street from where we were renting in Wesley Heights. Mrs. Brinkley would lunch with Nancy Reagan, then First Lady, in restaurants about town, but with Lacey would crawl hands and knees on our front lawn while her own dogs growled jealously behind her. She just loved our Maltese Lacey, who was vying for alpha animal with Rosalita at the time [Rosie would hold even humans in disdain, her sense of superiority was so deeply rooted.]

The competition for top pet was indeed fierce. For example, a then-young newly-arrived from the UK writer named Christopher Hitchens used to drink copiously at our house and would occasionally lapse into staring at Rosalita in an alcoholic haze for up to a half-hour at a time in silent reverie, an incomprehensible situation to anyone who knows how voluble Hitchens can be on any subject under the sun. Once he somewhat ceremoniously pronounced her "the most beautiful creature I have ever seen."

But Rosalita was much much more than a self-possessed good-looking cat. She would lick me long periods with her sandpaper tongue, a sort of ritual that female cats occasionally perform, perhaps to taste whatever testoserone she might sense with her astounding powers of sight, smell, and hearing. Rosalita combined these senses to become a bird-catcher & leaper of phenomenal skills---several times she jumped off our third-story outdoor porch to the ground unharmed and then evaded capture in skunk/cat/possum traps we would set for her laced with delicious cat treats for weeks at a time. We caught six or eight varmints, but we knew Rosalita had been there when the animal had stolen the bait while avoiding the trapdoor, a feat of incredible skill and athleticism, not to mention intelligence.

The most memorable time Rosalita pulled her dramatic skills off impeccably was when my wife was testifying to the misdeeds of Sen. Mark Hatfield, who was being paid under the table through Hatfield's wife Antoinette for non-existent home decorating advice [$90,000?] by my wife's employer Basil Tsakos who was lobbying the US Govt for subsidies to build a Trans-African Pipeline [Oil prices were $40/barrel & the Iran-Iraq War was inhibiting supply]. Two FBI agents were sitting in our dining room questioning my wife, one of them an attractive woman named Robin [You can't make these things up!], when Rosalita appeared in the window with a still fluttering robin in her mouth. Robin the G-woman screamed and said she was going to be sick. The male agent went to the window and wondered how in the world Rosalita had jumped the fifteen feet necessary to reach the window sill from the ground outdoors, a prodigious example of her athleticism. [During the Hatfield episode, many reporters came to the house for interviews, including Howie Kurtz and Judith Warner of the NYT, to name two who are still under byline.] My wife was on the evening news of all three US networks and CBC of Canada. I went to pick up the morning paper in our front yard and a CBS TV crew with cameras running [I was in my underwear] came up to ask questions. Rosalita would often dramatically appear while the ink-stained wretch would be interviewing at our kitchen table simply to elicit the adoration she unquestionably deserved.

Rosalita was admired by all our visitors who liked cats. Among our frequent guests at the time was George Tenet [who had been Repub Sen. Heinz's aide, but was out-of-a-job temporarily when Heinz was killed in a helicopter crash], Helen Thomas and her still-living husband [she drank a third of a bottle of our Dewar's], the aforementioned Christopher Hitchens, a scattering of diplomats from the Embassies, Tip O'Neill's niece, and other friends and notables of the day [Phil Geyelin of the WaPo, Joe Fitchett of the Int Herald Trib, Bill Richardson for whom we threw a fund-raiser---he had dated my wife at Tufts---and some State Dept. buddies, including John Limbert, ex-Iranian hostage and future AFSA president], and all were either dazzled or dissed by the aristocratic Rosalita, who displayed herself with queenly dignity and the comportment of a truly magnificent feline,

Sadly, Rosalita eventually ran out of her nine lives [and about twenty-plus more] when she chased a bird into heavy traffic and paid dearly for the mistake....! She is now in Cat Valhalla queening it over lesser felines. We still have the pictures and every time I hear the song, I see Rosalita making unbelievable standing leaps to our window sill to get into the house with a bird in her mouth---she was an Olympian in the cat world...!

All this came back to me when on the FOX Sports Channel radio, there was a betting pool of which songs Bruce Springsteen would play during the Halftime Show---Born To Run, Glory Days, and Rosalita were among the top five. I loved the eventual song choices and Bruce kept politics out of the act, which is a blessing, but I wished for one moment, Rosalita would again have her name in bright lights across the land!

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