Ep. 1: William James, Peregrine & Linden (ft. Choire Sicha)

Transcription by Colette Arrand. Hire her if you need things transcribed!

Mary Phillips-Sandy: Choire Sicha, you are responsible for not one, not two, but three cats, as well as the Styles section of the New York Times. I guess you need a job to provide for all of those cats?

Choire Sicha: It’s exhausting having a job that gets in the way of your cats.

Mary: It sounds stressful.

Choire: You have to have priorities in this world—

Mary: Some.

Choire: And work is a problem.

Mary: Alright, well then, let’s not talk about work.

Choire: [Laughter].

Mary: Let’s talk about cats!

Choire: Let’s not talk about work!

[UPBEAT, SLIGHTLY FRANTIC ELECTRONIC MUSIC: Let’s talk about cats! Let’s talk about cats!]

Mary: This is Let’s Talk About Cats, the show where we talk about cats. I’m noted cat lady Mary Phillips-Sandy. My cat’s name is Grendel; hi, Grendel! And I’m here with noted cat gentleman, Choire Sicha.

Choire: Thanks for having me on this illustrious cat podcast. I can’t believe it.

Mary: Well, thank you. You have three cats. I want to say their names for the record: William James, Peregrine and Linden, which is like the tree and not the president.

Choire: That’s correct. Not like the president, who is gross.

Mary: Yes, correct. So I asked you to, uh, prepare a five-word memoir for whichever cat you thought was most interesting. Did you do it?

Choire: I did.

Mary: So, which cat did you decide was deserving?

Choire: I was talking about Perry.

Mary: Perry. Peregrine. Okay, hit us with the memoir.

Choire: Um, sandy streets, broken tale, scratchiful. That’s not very good.

Mary: No, it’s fantastic.

Choire: I should work on that a little bit.

Mary: It’s very evocative.

Choire: So, I mean, the reason I thought of Perry was that she grew up in Miami Beach—Miami Beach.

Mary: Okay, oh, a beach cat.

Choire: And she, among other things that are wrong with her, her broken tail—

Mary: [Tsk] Ohh.

Choire: Her broken tooth, her weird attitude, her stymied growth. She has, like, big anime eyes, because she never grew into her eyes, but she also can’t bury things properly in the litter box, because she grew up on the mean, uh, concrete streets of Miami Beach.

Mary: Got it. So the litter box is a new concept.

Choire: She’s like, well, I guess I go in here, but then I’m done. And the other cats are like, [as cats] why are you doing this to us?

Mary: [Laughter.]

Choire: Horrifying!

[UPTEMPO ROCK MUSIC AND FEMALE VOCALISTS SINGING]

Mary: Okay, it’s the Cat Quiz. Today, actual New York Times cat headline, or fake news?

Choire: I’m going to ace the heck out of this.

Mary: Do you read the New York Times?

Choire: [Quietly] Sometimes. I read [Laughter] online mostly.

Mary: [Laughter] Well, you know, join the club. So I’m going to read you some headlines, and you’re going to tell me if this is an actual headline about a cat that appeared in the paper of record, or if it is something that I just made up.

Choire: Question about the parameters of the quiz?

Mary: Of course.

Choire: How far back do the headlines go in time?

Mary: As far back as whatever you can search on the newyorktimes.com website.

Choire: Okay, go.

[CAT QUIZ MUSIC: FAST DRUMS AND RUMBLING PURR SOUNDS.]

Mary: First headline: “A Found Cat, A Missed Connection, and Finally, a Marriage.”

Choire: Real.

Mary: Fake!

Choire: Damnit! …am I allowed to swear on this thing?

Mary: You can swear as much as you want.

Choire: Damnit!

Mary: Next headline: “With Claws Drawn, Italians Duel Over 250 Cats.”

Choire: Real!

Mary: That is real! That ran on April 7, 1999.

Choire: And I have visited that place.

Mary: The island near Venice? San Clemente?

Choire: Yeah—oh, yeah, yeah, that one!

Mary: Of course you have!

Choire: Um, it’s one of the many great cat places in Italy.

Mary: Ultimately when this show takes off, I want to launch cat tours around the world.

Choire: Yeah, oh, easy. Let’s go!

Mary: Alright, next headline: “A Meow Stilled, At Least For Now.”

Choire: Oh, fake.

Mary: Choire, that’s real.

Choire: Fudgesicles! I feel like I can’t decide if that’s a great headline or a very bad one.

Mary: I had the same reaction, and that’s why I put it here.

Choire: Yeah, smart.

Mary: Next headline: “In New Paltz, An Artist’s Retreat Becomes A Haven For Cats.”

Choire: This feels like a trick. I’m going to go with fake!

Mary: You’re right! It is fake, but it could have been real!

Choire: No one cares about New Paltz.

Mary: At first it was Binghamton.

Choire: Oh yeah, I was going to say if you said Kingston or Binghamton, that would have been it.

Mary: I should have gone with Binghamton, note for next time.

Choire: We call Binghamton “the other Hampton.”

Mary: Uh-huh. Okay, final headline: “Four Theatre Kittens Born As Show Ends; Timely Arrival Wins A Home With Star.”

Choire: Is that a semicolon in the middle of that?

Mary: You know it.

Choire: That seems bad, but likely. I’m going to go with real.

Mary: It’s real!

Choire: Ugh, it’s weird.

Mary: July 18, 1937. And this actually might be one of the best cat stories ever to run in the New York Times. A production of The Show Is On at the Winter Garden. The theater cat, whose name was Judy, gave birth in the front row of the orchestra.

Choire: What?!

Mary: The kittens were immediately adopted on the spot by the show’s star Bea Lillie, who would not allow the newspaper to take their picture!

[CAT QUIZ MUSIC STOPS.]

Choire: That’s a good story.

Mary: That’s a good story.

Choire: They don’t write them like that anymore.

Mary: They don’t—no, the stage got small, it’s not the cats.

Choire: [Laughter] It’s the—yeah, hmm, the rough—I’ve got nothing! That’s good!

[UPTEMPO, GUITAR DRIVEN ROCK MUSIC]

Choire: I feel like I did very poorly. For those counting at home, I lost.

Mary: Of course you win a prize, but we are going to hold off on that for right now. We’ll come back to it later. Uh, it is time for Hot Topic. This is where you and I, two expert cat people, put to rest a controversy that has been dividing the cat community for quite some time. We’re going to solve this once and for all. Cat-themed clothing! Choire, what do you think? Is it ever fashionable?

Choire: I just feel like we had a moment recently where, um, cat emoji clothing came into a moment, uh, as did all emoji clothing, which came into Manhattan and left via the Fulton Mall in Brooklyn. And then, uh, also, there was kind of like the post-wolf shirt, like, ironic cat shirt system, so I’m going to say yes, but briefly.

Mary: But briefly. So it’s no longer fashionable, you’re saying?

Choire: Yes, but we’re about three months away from someone in L.A. doing something great with clothing and cats.

Mary: Okay, so there’s something to look forward to. My feeling is that cat clothing is a constant. It’s like, it’s up there with the perfect white button-down, a good pair of Oxfords. It never goes out of style.

Choire: I actually just had a moment of panic where I thought maybe you meant clothing on cats.

Mary: No! Oh, no, no, no, no!

Choire: Okay, good, [inaudible – crosstalk].

Mary: It looks fake, it makes the cat angry. It makes the cat very angry.

Choire: Oh, horribly.

Mary: I mean, my position is this. I like a print, um, because I don’t like to put much thought into what I’m wearing—

Choire: Sure.

Mary: And I feel like if you put on a print, it looks like you tried. A print hides the cat hair.

Choire: Oh, yeah. That’s a given.

Mary: I have a cat who has white, grey, and tan fur—

Choire: Mm, oy!

Mary: So she sheds accordingly on whatever I’m wearing, you know?

Choire: Poor thing. That’s mean.

Mary: Yeah.

Choire: I mean, clothing is supposed to make you feel like the best or most serene version of yourself. So if that is doing that for you, then you’re winning fashion.

Mary: I like that attitude. I know myself, I know my future is full of cat sweatshirts. And you know what? There was a time when I thought maybe I should feel bad about that, but I’ve come around to the point where I’m actually feeling really excited about it. I feel like that’s going to be a great time of life, when I can just wear sweatshirts with cats on them all the time, whenever, to functions, I don’t care.

Choire: I just feel like I hear from a lot of women who are—and it’s almost always women—who are afraid of getting a second or a fourth cat, or who are afraid of becoming a cat sweatshirt person. And I’m like, I don’t know what you’re afraid of.

Mary: Well, there is a gender element to it though—

Choire: Yeah, sure.

Mary: Because if a man wears a cat shirt, he’s subversive, he’s cool, he’s hip—

Choire: Mm-hmm.

Mary: He’s clever, he’s in touch with his emotions. If a woman does it, she’s probably not been on a date in six years.

Choire: Yeah, and it’s—it’s real! I mean, the stereotype is, it’s deep. It’s not, people aren’t like, “oh cat lady!” They’re literally like, “oh, you—you’ve given up.”

Mary: It’s judgmental.

Choire: Yeah.

Mary: And I think that’s where the clothing really ties in. And that’s maybe where the stereotype of cat clothing as unfashionable comes in.

Choire: Yeah.

Mary: My question for you now, do you own any cat clothing yourself?

Choire: I don’t think I do. I might have like a bandana or a belt that’s cat-adjacent, but I don’t think I have any like, cat t-shirts.

Mary: Are you sure about that?

Choire: Well, I’m in the dangerous place where people give me cat-related things. I feel like what happens is at a certain point in one’s life, one becomes known for a thing, and then one receives those things. Whether it’s the bible, or whether it’s being promiscuous, or whatever—

Mary: [Laughter.]

Choire: People give you gifts related to your relationship to the world, right?

Mary: Right.

Choire: So I want to be known for other things than just cats.

Mary: Okay, so. That said—

Choire: Uh-oh.

Mary: Choire, Styles editor of the New York Times, I’d like you to describe the garment that I am giving you right now.

Choire: So the problem is—[Laughter]

Mary: [Laughter.]

Choire: This article of clothing. I’m looking at the label, as one does.

Mary: Well, no, no, no! [Laughter.]

Choire: Wow… what’s first alarming about this t-shirt product is, first of all, the extent of the crew neck. But first of all is the color, which I would describe as, like, cocktail lilac. Like, it’s somewhere between plum and violet.

Mary: Yeah. So this is a t-shirt, this is a t-shirt Choire is describing, and it is a lavender, plum, violet color.

Choire: It’s that cotton that’s so shiny that never actually feels good. I’m sorry.

Mary: And on the front of it, what do we have?

Choire: It’s a transfer print of four cats in full Western regalia—

Mary: Mm-hmm.

Choire: Including spurs, bandanas, um, cowboy hats—

Mary: Yup.

Choire: Bad attitudes.

Mary: And could you turn it over please and just check the back?

Choire: Oh no, there’s more on the back—oh, and then on the back you can see their buttholes! Well, only one of them. You can see their tails on the rest.

Mary: So, so—

Choire: It’s front and back, which actually makes this shirt great! Where did you get it?

Mary: Okay, so I want to break down for you—

Choire: Mm-hmm.

Mary: Why this is now the most fashionable shirt that you own.

Choire: Accurate… except I’m not sure I own it. Do I?

Mary: Oh, yes, you do.

Choire: Yay! I won something today.

Mary: So this shirt is incredibly fashionable for the following reasons. I did my research. I’m not the Styles editor of the New York Times, but I can Google things.

Choire: Not yet!

Mary: Oh! So, Pantone made purple the color of the year in 2018.

Choire: Oh, I’m aware.

Mary: You’re aware. The lady who made this shirt for you, it’s a bespoke custom shirt—

Choire: What??

Mary: Yes, that’s right. She didn’t have purple, but she had lavender, so this was the closest we could get. In March, Vogue France, which I think you will agree is the fanciest Vogue—

Choire: It’s up there. It’s top five. [Laughter.]

Mary: Okay, alright. They ran an article titled “22 Menswear Trends for Fall/Winter 2018/2019.” Number four trend? Western.

Choire: Oh yeah, isn’t that weird?

Mary: Name checking Calvin Klein, DSquared2, Dries van Noten—these are very fancy people. I’ve heard of one of them, Calvin.

Choire: You’re doing great.

Mary: Right? Finally, just this summer, Page Six ran a story—

Choire: [Laughter.]

Mary: A celebrity dermatologist who treats J.Lo and Kim Kardashian reported that big butts are on their way out.

Choire: Oh no, I love the big butt years.

Mary: Well, those cats, I think you’ll agree that their buts are not very big.

Choire: No, they have little butts.

Mary: They have little butts.

Choire: And they cannot lie.

Mary: So this shirt—this shirt sums up the year’s biggest trends.

Choire: You’re not wrong, weirdly.

Mary: All in one package. If this came down the runway in Milan—

Choire: Oh yeah, people would be really into it.

Mary: You’d be—right, exactly.

Choire: People would be like, they did it!

Mary: Exactly.

Choire: This is the way fashion is both an art and a conspiracy.

Mary: It’s like the blue sweater in The Devil Wears Prada, right?

Choire: Mmm. Oh, it a little bit is. This is, honestly this is a very beautiful shirt. I mean, I’m actually going to wear the heck out of this.

Mary: I hope you do! The reason I got a medium is because I asked a mutual friend, and I texted in the middle of the day and said what size shirt do you think Choire wears? Which is a weird question to text someone in the middle of the day, but she thought a medium.

Choire: Did she write back [whispering] “sext?”

Mary: [Laughter]. Well no, she genuinely said, “why are you asking me this?” And then we spent about 45 minutes Googling pictures of your torso.

Choire: You know what, I went from—[Laughter] that’s—I went from revulsion at this shirt to kind of like, actually I feel cozy about this shirt.

Mary: Okay, so I think we had our blue sweater moment. And I’m Meryl Streep and you’re Anne Hathaway.

Choire: I am Anne Hathaway. [Laughter.]

Mary: [Laughter.]

[UPBEAT, SLIGHTLY FRANTIC ELECTRONIC MUSIC: Cats! Let’s talk about cats!]

Mary: Enough of that, let’s talk about your cats. All three of them. Okay, so we have William James, Perry, AKA Peregrine, and Linden, like the tree. Highbrow brilliant on the names, except Linden maybe, just a tree? Is that just sort of—you’ve got to explain the names here.

Choire: You know when people have like, more than one child? Which is such a terrible thing to do?

Mary: Yeah, no, I don’t recommend it.

Choire: Yeah.

Mary: I wouldn’t do it, personally.

Choire: Please don’t. I’ve seen it happen and it doesn’t do good things for those lives.

Mary: [Laughter.]

Choire: At a certain point they start being like, let’s call them James? You know what I mean? They just give up. They’ve got like a cute name, then they’ve got a back-up name, and then you’re like, I don’t know, the third one. So, I mean, Linden was found under a linden tree.

Mary: Oh, okay. Was William James found under William James’ coffin?

Choire: Yeah, we are all found under William James eventually. That’s a really long way to go for a gay joke there.

Mary: You have three cats, and—

Choire: I have three cats at this time.

Mary: At this time, assuming none of them have died while we’re talking.

Choire: I mean, it could happen. Because you know, one of them peed on the couch the other day, and he almost died of that.

Mary: That’s a bad sign. Speaking of peeing, what is the litter situation?

Choire: Three cats, three boxes.

Mary: Really? Okay. That’s the rule. One cat, one box.

Choire: They have a hallway closet of their own.

Mary: A whole closet just for cats.

Choire: Yeah.

Mary: That’s actually very fancy.

Choire: I mean, literally, I am like, what’s the Anne Hathaway movie where she was a princess? I am that movie, with cats.

Mary: [Laughter.] Do they each have their own litter box dedicated, or do they share?

Choire: They’re in a struggle of each trying to have their own, and then one of them like goes and pees in the other, maybe on accident or on purpose, and there’s—

Mary: It’s never an accident. Speaking of, shall we say, aggressive peeing in each other’s boxes, is there inter-cat drama?

Choire: The only drama we’ve ever had is when William James got a paper bag stuck around his neck and like freaked out and started running around the house and like scrambling and cutting his nails and bleeding and crying and peeing as he ran. And then the other cats realized that though he was 20 pounds and monstrous, he was the beta, and they started alphaing him.

Mary: [Gasps.] Has he recovered from that? Has the dynamic shifted back, or is he still—?

Choire: It’s sort of recovered—I mean, they’re fine, they’re friends again, but they didn’t know who he was for a week. You know what I mean?

Mary: Wow, yeah.

Choire: They were like, who’s this cuck?

Mary: How did he recover from that?

Choire: Uhh, it happened as soon as we took the cat to the vet. The other cats were like, who the fuck are you?

[AGGRESSIVE, GUITAR DRIVEN ROCK MUSIC.]

Mary: Have you trained them?

Choire: Yes, right away.

Mary: What have you trained them to do?

Choire: Um, they sleep at the foot of the bed.

Mary: All three of them?

Choire: Yup.

Mary: Wow.

Choire: They go away at midnight and come back at 8:00am.

Mary: Wait, wait, wait, wait. They have a timer?

Choire: Yes. The cats know that there is a ritual about bedtime, and I get to go to sleep and they do not make a noise or come near us for eight hours.

Mary: I think I need you to come to my house and train my cat, because I mean, she wakes me up more than—how did you do that?

Choire: I mean, listen: Some cats are hard and like they’re always going to be hard. But I have to say, like, cats love structure.

Mary: Really?

Choire: They love timing, they love timed meals, they love rituals. And also, I have to say, having brought in a third cat, we had trained the first two, and they trained him.

Mary: [Gasps.] Really?

Choire: Because he was like, “Oh, I’m a kitten! What do I know?” And they were like, “Yo, it’s bedtime, get out of the bedroom.” [Shooing noises.]

Mary: Wow.

Choire: Yeah, no, it’s crazy. You can train cats. You have to be really firm with them.

Mary: I feel like this could be the topic of your next book.

Choire: I could actually just go around the country training cats. [Laughter.]

Mary: [Laughter.]

Choire: Well, you know, media is not doing so great. Just kidding, I love media!

Mary: Speaking of media, what is your cats’ media diet?

Choire: Um, my cats’ media diet—that’s a great question. That’s like a really great question out of the late ‘00s. Oh, you know what? They like it when I sing to them. Does that count as media?

Mary: Yes, of course. What do you sing?

Choire: Well, I learned this from Mike Dang—if you know Mike Dang at The Billfold.

Mary: Okay. I do, of course.

Choire: Uh, Perry was really shy when she was young, and he was like, “Perry loves me.” And I was like, what did you do? And he was like, “Well, I get on the floor and I sing to her.” And I was like, ohh, okay. And it turns out she does. Like, you sing to her and she comes running. She’s like, “meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.” So she was a very shy cat who just liked to be sung to. That’s their media diet. They watch some squirrel videos, too. It makes me sound really sad.

Mary: No, no. It makes you sound like a man who takes good care of his cats.

Choire: The great thing about cats is they do sleep 20 hours a day so you really actually don’t spend that much time with them.

Mary: That’s true.

Choire: This is the secret. Dogs? Pfft. Enjoy taking that crapper out.

Mary: Speaking of cat media, you know, you said media is in a tough spot. I think we all know that. That’s no secret.

Choire: Except podcasts about cats.

Mary: Podcasts about cats are on the up and up. Um, do you remember where you were when Cat Fancy folded?

Choire: I do, actually, and I was stunned.

Mary: Yeah. Were you a subscriber?

Choire: Uh, briefly, but not recently. But I do remember thinking, there had to be some way to make that thing work.

Mary: Right? I wish someone had come in to turn it around before it went under.

Choire: They never reached out to me. Or any of us. They were just—I don’t know who they were.

Mary: [Laughter] I know. We were here! We were right here!

Choire: I don’t know who owned it!

Mary: And so now it’s Catster.

Choire: Oh yeah.

Mary: Which comes out six times a year.

Choire: I support them.

Mary: Yeah! You promised in 2017 in an interview—

Choire: Uh-oh.

Mary: With Fashion Week Daily—

Choire: Uh-oh.

Mary: The advent of your tenure at the New York Times.

Choire: Ruh-roh.

Mary: You promised to increase cat coverage in the New York Times. Have you done that?

Choire: I have not.

Mary: [Gasps.]

Choire: Well, there was a couple things, but honestly there wasn’t a lot of cat stories. And I actually feel like we’re not covering animals enough. Like, why do we cover weddings and not cover a dog show?

Mary: This is my—this is exactly my question.

Choire: I will deal with this. Change is slow.

Mary: Change is slow at institutions.

Choire: I’ll get those cats.

Mary: I mean, not to put too much pressure, but you in fact did say that page two of Styles would be all about cats.

Choire: [Laughter] I totally said that! You know what, I’ll literally say anything in an interview. That’s the secret about me. I’m literally like—I’m just like please, just go away and let me make people laugh. Um, yeah.

Mary: Good to know, now that I’m interviewing you.

Choire: I think that I can do it, though.

Mary: I think you can too, I have faith.

Choire: I’m going to wear this t-shirt in the office.

Mary: Well, I want to tell you a very quick story.

Choire: Please.

Mary: One of the cats I grew up with, her name was Anatevka. Musical theater reference.

Choire: I don’t know.

Mary: Fiddler on the Roof, the name of the village.

Choire: Oh, I don’t know them.

Mary: Okay. [Laughter.] Well, I was a theater nerd. I’ve recovered. And my dad used to line the litter box with newspaper. Anatevka would only poop on the New York Times.

Choire: Nice.

Mary: She would not poop on the local paper.

Choire: Wow.

Mary: And this was central Maine, a small town in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. We had to reserve a copy of the Sunday Times at the one store in town that sold it, and then when we were done we had to save all the sections so that my cat could poop on it.

Choire: This is crazy!

Mary: My dad, to this day, has ongoing theories about the ink and the paper that the Times may or may not have been using in the ‘80s and ‘90s that made it attractive to at least one cat.

Choire: I believe in this.

Mary: If circulation needs a boost, maybe this is a marketing—[Laughter.]

Choire: You know, I was trying to come up with that whole bottom of the fish—fish wrap—

Mary: Fish wrap!

Choire: Versus bottom of the birdcage.

Mary: Oh yeah, but who has birdcages?

Choire: And literally, like, the millennials now were just like, what are you saying, what are these words?

Mary: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don’t know anyone with a birdcage. And I actually don’t know anyone who lines their litter box with paper. I don’t know why my father did that.  

Choire: No—well, it’s a very Maine thing to do, if I may say so. As the stepson of a person from Maine, I’m allowed to say—

Mary: Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Choire: That you are nothing if not thrifty?

Mary: Yankee ingenuity. Yankee ingenuity.

Choire: Yes, let’s say that.

Mary: You used to write about your cat, Cat.

Choire: Yes.

Mary: Back in the days of The Awl, which was the website you co-founded. Such a great website. Some would say the only good website. But you know, you haven’t been writing about your cats as much.

Choire: No.

Mary: Is that because you’re busy, or did they ask you to stop oversharing?

Choire: The cats?

Mary: Yeah.

Choire: No, I think we’ve all, many of us segued to more visual mediums.

Mary: Mmm, okay.

Choire: I also don’t do a ton of writing anymore is part of the thing. And I don’t—um, I feel a little rusty. I also feel like taking pictures of cats isn’t that appealing or satisfying.

Mary: Really?

Choire: Isn’t that a terrible thing to say about cats?

Mary: No, I understand. I mean, especially when it’s your own cats that you see every day.

Choire: Right. You’re like, oh, you again. I had this real breakdown the other night, and I was taking pictures of my cat and I was like, who wants to see pictures of this cat?

Mary: Well, I do.

Choire: Yeah, I think some people do. And you know, honestly, as you know, I do conduct cat brushing videos on my Instagram Stories, which are a little more popular than seems appropriate.

Mary: No, I think it’s a good level of appropriate.

Choire: I get a lot of response to those. I mean, I get dozens of people being like, “Oh my god! Glahh!” Which I totally get. I feel the same way about my cat, too. But I also actually have become accidentally an advocate for cat brushing.

Mary: Listen, you have to start them early. That’s the secret.

Choire: Yeah!

Mary: You have to get them used to it early.

Choire: Yeah.

Mary: My cat was a feral that I rescued.

Chiore: Ohh, yeah.

Mary: And one of the first things I did when I got her home was I brushed her so she got used to that brush.

Choire: Yes! Great plan.

Mary: Yeah. And now she … endures it, I would say.

[AGGRESSIVE, GUITAR DRIVEN ROCK MUSIC.]

Mary: Back to cat writing. You wrote one of, I think, the best things about a cat that I’ve ever read online, and you know what I’m talking about. “The Last Photograph of Cat.”

Choire: Oh yeah, cat obits.

Mary: Cat obits. That—

Choire: Cat obits are hard.

Mary: It was hard to read, especially as someone who had read about Cat on The Awl and felt, you know, I felt like—I was saying this to Lizzie, our producer, before you came in—I know your deceased cat better than I know some members of my own family. I just have 137 cousins.

Choire: [Laughter.]

Mary: No, but it was so beautiful and so widely shared. And there are, I know, people who still reference that piece to this day. Two questions: Why isn’t it online anymore?

Choire: Oh, yes.

Mary: You did something to your website and it’s gone. You need to restore it, because it’s important.

Choire: [Snorts.]

Mary: No, no, it is. I think it is important, because I think that opened up a way for people to talk about mourning and memorializing cats that maybe they didn’t think was possible before.

Choire: The good news is we’ll have more chances to memorialize cats as time goes on, uh, and they all die. Sorry everyone. I know there’s people at home right now being like, my cat just died, will you shut up please? Part of the other problem is that I think much of what many of us have written has disappeared in different ways, right?

Mary: Oh yeah, no, pretty much everything I’ve ever written is now gone.

Choire: Isn’t that wild?

Mary: It’s super weird. And then I have nothing to show for myself when people say, oh, you’ve done these things, let’s see. And I’m like, no, you just have to trust me.

Choire: Yeah! Well, it’s funny too, because I was sort of like, I was having this discussion with someone and they were like, well, you’re a well-known writer. I was like, a) not really, and I was like, b) but I’m sort of a mid-tier writer or whatever that phrase is, lol. I’m a third-tier writer. But then I was literally like, name one thing I’ve written, and also name where you can find it, because like, it’s just like none of this exists. And then you sort of maybe have written some things, but—and they’re just all gone. It’s fascinating. I’m not dodging your question, I just—I also don’t think I can look at it.

Mary: My cat Milo died, um, two and a half years ago, now. And I still get upset when I look at pictures of him.

Choire: Oh, yeah. Sure.

Mary: It’s still hard. And I still have so many—and I keep thinking I should organize the photos, I should organize the videos, I should, you know, get it all into drives and save it, and I just—every time I sit down to do it, I can’t. I can’t. And it’s hard to explain to people who don’t get that. You are not a third-tier writer. In fact—and I say this in all seriousness—you are one of my favorite writers.

Choire: [Pretends to snore.]

Mary: No, don’t make that sound.

Choire: Barf. You know what sucks? Writers.

Mary: Writers do suck.

Choire: Ha-ha! They’re terrible.

Mary: But here’s the thing. I think what you did to the internet—and I’m not just saying this to give you a big ego, because I think your ego is big enough—I think what you did to the internet, and it wasn’t just you, but it was that era of writers on the internet in the mid-aughts, what you did was sort of cat-like in this great way.

Choire: Oh, hmm.

Mary: And this just occurred to me. The internet was sitting there, and you kind of climbed on it, and you were like, yeah, I think I’ll camp out here. And you made it your own in a way that really changed what it was about for a lot of people. And to this day, it’s like there’s little Choire cat hairs around the internet.

Choire: Ha!

Mary: I see kids using capital letters and exclamation points in their serious essays, and I think, yeah—

Choire: [Laughter.]

Mary: There’s a little Choire cat hair sprinkled in there, and I don’t know if they even know where it came from.

Choire: Oh, I hope they don’t. But the, um, but that’s interesting because what I tell young people most often is like, you have to go pee on things basically.

Mary: Yeah!

Choire: You have to go seize people’s attention. And the reason why we sounded like we did is we had to be very loud, because everyone was like, well who are these idiots?

Mary: And this is when you were at Gawker. Yeah.

Choire: Yeah, and when I was young. Like I had to be twice as loud, because I didn’t go to Harvard and I didn’t, you know, whatever. And I didn’t go to journalism school. Like so that’s very cat-like, though, because the cat will be like, poke, poke, poke, pay attention to me.

Mary: Exactly, and it’s not going to wait for someone to say, oh yes, you, cat, you’re okay.

Choire: Oh, yeah. No, cats—

Mary: The cat knows they’re okay.

Choire: Yeah.

Mary: And the cat knows what they’re about.

Choire: Or the cat is just like, I’m hungry! Which is like what we were like, because we were like, we have no money, we’re starving, raow! So like, let the record reflect I made a cat noise there.

Mary: [Laughter.]

Choire: But like, I think that’s a sort of fair assessment, and it was more about necessity and need than about like any kind of plan or whatever, but it was definitely an act of hostility.

Mary: [Laughter.]

Choire: Like most things that cats do, also.

Mary: Yeah, exactly.

[AGGRESSIVE, GUITAR DRIVEN ROCK MUSIC.]

Mary: We have some shout-outs to do. Uh, so we want to give a shout-out to Theodore Roosevelt, AKA TR in Chicago. That’s a cat, not a dead president. We want to say hello to Winnie, who is listening in New Jersey. Winnie has had a tough summer. She’s sad because Law & Order: SVU is on hiatus. Hang in there. And last but not least, hello to Noodles in New York City. Noodles, everyone hopes you’re not biting.

Choire: [Laughter.] Noodles, nooo.

Mary: Noodles! Uhh, if you would like your cat to get a shout-out on an upcoming episode, you can send us an e-mail at shouts@letstalkaboutcats.com. Let me know the name of your cat, where they live, and if there’s anything special you’d like me to say.

[UPBEAT, SLIGHTLY FRANTIC ELECTRONIC MUSIC: Let’s talk about cats! Let’s talk about cats!]

Mary: Um, Choire, thank you so much for talking about cats with us today. If people would like to experience more of you on the internet, what should they do?

Choire: I suppose if you want to be near my cats, Instagram is the place to be. My name comes up.

Mary: @choire on Instagram, right?

Choire: Something—I have no idea.

Mary: You don’t know. Alright, again, very cat-like.

Choire: There’s like cats there. Oh, who knows! Where am I now??

Mary: Cats don’t know what their names are!

Choire: Thanks for the shirt, by the way.

Mary: You’re welcome!

Choire: Who gets gifts?

Mary: People who come on Let’s Talk About Cats, that’s who.

Choire: Well, let’s talk about cats more!

Mary: [Laughter.] We will next week. So make sure you catch the next one. Go ahead and subscribe on Apple Podcasts or whatever podcast app you like. We’re there, I promise. And please, leave us a review. They’re like tiny affirmations, which I really need. That is our show! I am noted cat lady Mary Phillips-Sandy. My cat’s name is Grendel. The show’s producer is the always in style Lizzie Jacobs. Our theme song is by Poingly, with additional music by The English Muffins. Our show logo is by Julia Emiliani. Thank you all for listening. We’ll talk next time… about cats.