The Cat Circus

22 Aug

Readers, I must admit that this may hands-down been the greatest adventure I have yet to go on.  It will be difficult to top this one.  I may have to retire the blog because anything I write after this post will be boring in comparison.  On a random Tuesday night, I drove to the middle of nowhere and got to see a cat circus, complete with a cat rock n’ roll band.  Allow a minute to take that in.

I remember reading about the circus in the paper last year.  I wanted to go when I saw the ad, but couldn’t make it due to financial strains.  Suddenly, that magical time was upon us again.  My finances didn’t really look any better, but lets face it-I really couldn’t let this one go by again.  The Mercury did a pretty big ad for the show.  They usually don’t stray me wrong.  It was unfortunately $20 a ticket.  That’s sort of a lot of money.  That’s what kept me away last year.  Interestingly, the show had RAVE reviews on the internet.  I couldn’t find one negative review anywhere.  That’s saying something.  Anyone who goes on to Yelp can attest to that.  Someone’s always gotta bitch about something.  Literally not one bad review.  Now the difficult part:  convincing anyone to pay $20 to come with me.  Somehow, I managed to get Ross to agree to go.  That is a miracle unto itself. We both had Tuesday off, which was the last night of their week-long run in Portland.  It was perfect.

The show started at 7, and we already promised ourselves we would be drunk for the show (obviously).  We hit up a happy hour with amazing snacks and had some drinks on a patio.  It was magical:  Champagne, sun, delicious Szechuan food, the prospect of seeing trained cats just a few hours away.  During drinks, it dawned on us that we had never heard of the theatre that the show was at.  We had no idea what part of town it was in.  We decided to Google it, and head to that area of town and have pre-show drinks at whatever bar was nearest.  I was giddy.  I brought an amazing vintage dress befitting of a cat-lady to change into for the occasion.  Ross was planning on swinging by our apartment and donning the bubble-gum pink cat t-shirt I picked up at the cat show we went to earlier in the year (see post Cat Show).  We were delighted to see that the venue was actually near our apartment.  That was astounding in itself, as there is jack-shit near our apartment.  Literally.  We were grinning from ear-to-ear.    Everything is working out better than expected.  As we were paying our tab, I suddenly noticed that there were tons of internet posts in regards to the event that it was sold out.  SOLD OUT??  My heart literally sank.  I called the venue and got a sad voice recording that “The Amazing Acrocats” has sold out.  I became so sad I didn’t feel like I could get out of my chair.  I thought Ross would have to carry me to the car.  I mean, what the fuck?  I planned my whole God-damned day off around this!  I bragged to my friends!  It never occurred to me that it could have a possibility of selling out.  I mean, its some obscure, expensive cat show on a Tuesday night!  My depression was palpable.  Ross tried to soothe me by saying we’d drive to the venue to see if there were any extra tickets, cat show scalpers, anything.  I didn’t speak the entire drive there.

Although near our apartment and off of roads we knew, we still had to Mapquest the address which appeared to be in the middle of nowhere on a dead-end street that we’ve never heard of.  We drove though a residential neighborhood, then onto a gravel strip (the street) that ran parallel to a railroad track.  There was no parking lot.  The only way we knew we had arrived was we saw a tour bus parked alongside a wooden shack.  The bus was covered in murals of cats.  This was clearly it.  The shanty-venue had a piece of fabric tacked to the outside proclaiming “Headwaters Theatre”.  I searched for a door and let myself in.  There was a girl setting up a table with cat-merch, donning a pair of purple vinyl cat ears.  She was flustered, setting everything up “just so”.  I asked her if the show was sold out, extreme urgency in my voice.  She said that it was.  I asked if there were any extra tickets.  She asked me for how many, clearly distracted and under extreme duress.   I said for two and gave her pleading eyes.  After nervously pouring over a list, she said she would sell me two tickets.  THANK YOU CAT GIRL!!!  Rainbows shot out of my eyes as I received my tickets.  As I turned to leave, a tiger-striped cat with the most beautiful green eyes parked himself between me and the door.  He looked at me and mewed most earnestly.  I blinked, frozen for a few seconds.  I didn’t expect cats to just be hanging out.  I uttered some nonsense in the vein of “kitty kitty” and reached out to pet him.  A gentleman appeared just then from behind a curtain and said “Oz!  There you are!”  He regarded me and then with a deep bow said “escort this kind lady to the door.”.  HOLY SHIT.   I exited the “ticket booth” and skipped to Ross who was posed outside smoking a cigarette and let him know we were in.  It was 6 pm at that point.  The ticket girl said that the bar opened at 6:30, doors at 7.  Bar?  What’s that you say?  This barn has a bar?  Of course it does.  We’re in fucking Portland, after all.  You can get a beer at the museum here.  Rather than leave, we decided to kill 30 in the car.  I changed unceremoniously into my dress in the front seat.  There was no one around, nothing but train tracks surrounding us on all sides. Not a soul in sight.  Good.  That means we’ll get front row seats.

Nothing but trailers and dirt.
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The view from he theatre’s front door.
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The “street” and “parking lot”.
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The venue.
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The Tour van.
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Glorious cat-girl that made this night possible.
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At 6:29, we left the car to hit the bar.  It was a hot, sunny day.  We stepped put into the blazing sun and snapped some pictures of the van.  We decided that cameras probably weren’t allowed so we were going to try and sneak shots on Ross’ iphone.  We again marveled at our surroundings.  what the fuck is this place?  As Ross was finishing his smoke, a lone man walked up out of nowhere.  He was in a sun hat, long explorer-style khaki shorts, carrying a walking stick.  I also noticed a couple that appeared to be homeless digging in the theater’s dumpster.  Are they here for the show?  No.  That’s crazy-talk. These are clearly vagrants. I then noticed that Mr. Walking Stick had long, pulled up socks with pictures of cats on them.  Upon further inspection, Mrs Dumpster had a purple sweatshirt on with an orange cat on the front.  Oh hell yes! They were here for the show.

Cat socks.
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We were the first ones in, and got our drinks at the “bar” which turned out to be a wooden slab with a single bare bulb hanging over it.  A dark-haired girl with a distinct voice poured my wine and told me a little about the theatre.  It had regular performing art shows there.  She tried to entice us to come to a modern dance performance in a few days in the future.  We politely smiled and took in our surroundings.  There was a lot of raw wood, dark corners, and harsh lighting provided by single-hanging bare light bulbs.  It was hot in there. Unbearably so. Sweat started rolling down our foreheads and my dress was sticking to my legs. Wow. This was unreal. It was cooler outside, and it was 98 degrees. The girl behind that bar explained that they usually roll up one of the walls (like a garage door) but because of the cats, they couldn’t risk having it so open, should one run away. After remembering the cat that chased me to the door, I felt that was understandable. Sucks for us! We sat in chairs and watched the other ticket-holders trickle in. Eventually, a line to get in began to form.  We got distracted by the weird merch on the entrance table, so we weren’t the very first in line. That’s ok.  We were number 2.  Not too shabby for two people who talked their way into a sold out show.  We stood behind a couple that was right at the entrance.  The crowd was not what I expected.  I thought there would be a lot of hipsters there for the “weird”.  Quite the opposite.  It was all “cat people”.  That can look like many things.  As the folks piled in, the music in the “lobby” began.  Ill let the video speak for itself.

Pre-show anticipation.

Me in my cat-lady dress.
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Merch.
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The lobby and the bar.
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The ticket holder’s line.
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The music continued. All various songs about cats.  I made small talk with the couple in front of us. They were friendly. Very Oregonian, natural couple.  The wife was nice to talk to and made excellent eye-contact.  She told me she owned show cats, and toured the circuit.  I told her about my blog on such subjects.  I wanted to ask her so many questions.  The music played on and we stifled our laughter. Everyone else there was dead-serious. It was unreal.  I pushed Ross ahead of me in line, knowing he was intrinsically more aggressive by nature, therefore would almost guarantee an excellent seat.  After a very hot, unbearable 20 minutes, they opened the curtain and let us in. We forced our way to front row-center. VICTORY! We got the best seats in the god-damned house at a sold-out show! The nice couple from the line sat next to me (I think we actually cut them off when we were jockeying for our position. Whoops. Oh well, we were technically there first).  The stage remained dark for the next 20 minutes.  The cat-themed music continued to play and my nose was met with hot air laden with cat-piss.  Just the right amount.   I continued to small-talk with the couple from the line.  I think I could have picked her brain for hours. I knew after these conversations I could really cut loose at this show and she would absolutely not judge. 

As we waited and sweated for the show to start, the man that wrangled the cat from my exit path weaved his way through the crowd selling a cigarette-girl’s tray full of various cat ears.  I’m no going to lie, they were tempting.  He had a humorous spiel, and he continued to cavort among the crowd.  The anticipation was painful.

The stage.
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Over-the-shoulder view. Filling up.
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Amazing.
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Lights on, show begins!  Everything is decorated in silver and purple.  I am instantly struck with what a home-made operation the entire thing is.  I’m in love.  This was not some angry, militant cash cow where the cats were mistreated and miserable.  Nay! This was a woman and her friend (not quite sure the nature of their relationship) that genuinely love cats and took the time to train them with positive reinforcement.  They begin the show in their tramp-like costumes, describing how they train, who they are, and where the cats come from.  Turns out all the cats in the show were at one time rescues.  Also the training is all reward-based, with treats made from salmon and chicken made by the handler herself every day.  She joked that the cats eat better than she does.  I’m guessing that’s probably true.  The entire stage is charmingly DIY, as well as the outfits.  I imagine that they are lovers, the trainer and her younger male counterpart.  I dream that they both have a deep love for cats, and they live in their tour bus, going from state to state performing.  I imagine that they make just enough to live, but they are doing exactly what they want and therefore are totally happy.  I imagine them on their down-time, in sweats drinking wine and watching their magnificent trained cats roam their tour bus without a care in the world.

The show begins magically.  I instantly ascertain that I simply do no have the mental capacity to watch this show and and take pictures.  It absolutely isn’t possible.  Ross had to take over.  *Official disclaimer:  Ross isn’t the “best” photographer.  Sorry about that.  The cats really are trained to do tricks.  Of course not every trick is executed flawlessly, and not every  cat is focused and doesn’t get distracted.  We were warned at the beginning of the show that if a cat were to become distracted and wander off stage, we were not to touch them or pay them any attention so that their focus can be redirected to the task at hand.   Do you know how hard it is to NOT pet a cat??  Without a hitch, when the kitty that met me at the door, Oz first came on to stage he recognized me immediately.  He looked right into my eyes with his beautiful green ones and mewed.  He sniffed my heels with mild interest and mewed at me again.  Holy FUCK.  Urge to pet cat RISING.  When I payed kitty no attention, he eventually went back to the stage and carried on.  I now know how drug addicts must feel.

*Disclaimer: You’re just going to have to ignore my chortles and squeals in the background of these videos

Tuna starts the show…barely.

Cat after amazing cat came on stage and did a little bit.  All were rescues-no pure breds.  She even had trained kittens!  Can you imagine how hard it must be to train a kitten??  That’s like training a snake, or a spider.  I have to mention that the show also featured a trained groundhog that drove a car in a tutu, rats that wore sparkly red top hats, and a chicken?  All of this unfolding 2 inches away from my toes.  It was the best god-damned $20 I ever spent.  Seriously.  I squealed, shrieked, laughed, even cried with the audience that night.  The best part?  Every time I uttered some sort of guttural- glee noise, everyone in the audience was right behind me, “ooh”-ing and “ahhh”-ing right along with me.

Cat rolls on a tube

Kitten runs obstacle course.

Cat on a skateboard.
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Cat on a ball

Kitten trio.
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Cat runs into a tube, stretches.

Cat hurdle.

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Cat high-five.
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His name is Gizmo.
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Its a groundhog.  
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Getting his costume on.
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Fancy!
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Being pulled by a RC car in a wagon.  Why not?
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Chicken on a tightrope.
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Mice in top-hats.
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Cat bowls a strike, chicken looks on.
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Refusing to perform.
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Seeking treat crumbs.
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We were THIS CLOSE!
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Chubb the cat.
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Cat turns the pinwheel.
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Coming towards my feet again!!!
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Leap!
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Its a cat pushing a shopping cart.
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Through the hoop.
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I can’t recall how long the actual show was.  1 hour?  Maybe 2?  Time pretty-much stopped all together.  Kittens balancing on platforms, cats jumping through hoops, a chicken and a cat engaged in a bell-ringing contest…too much good stuff.  The grand finale of the show, was of course the “Amazing Rockcats”.  This is where certain cats in the repertoire hop up on a musical stage and play the various instruments they are trained for.  Sometimes not.  Tuna, the star of show, graciously played the cowbell, as the entire audience chanted “More cowbell, Tuna!”  Joining this star-cat, was a sassy calico on chimes, a chicken on tambourine, a fluffy white cat on sticks, a cat that refused to play the guitar, and a pretty legit keyboardist.  This cacophony of sound creates the first-ever cat only rock band.  I must add that it really wasn’t the worst band I’ve ever sat through.


The Rockcats, featuring a chicken on tambourine.

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After this grand finale, You are invited to take as many pictures as you wanted and pet the cats.  This was the element I was missing during cat show!!!!  Of course by this time, the heat had become absolutely intolerable.  I think you can see that on our faces in the pictures.  We got our photo, quick-pet a kitty, then literally ran outside to meet the glorious breeze.  Oh shit.  Outside was as glorious as the show.  Sweet release.

Ross and the star of the show, Tuna.

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Me awkwardly crouching with my dress stuck to me on all sides, chicken pecking my hair.Photobucket

The lady of the show, helping make my picture more awesome.Photobucket

Heat aside, that was a damned good show. I’ve never laughed so much, squealed so loud, or clapped so vigorously. It took all my power to not snatch a cat and run away with it.

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4 Responses to “The Cat Circus”

  1. IrishmaleinAmerica (@ianhmoore) August 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Oh man, I’m so disappointed that I didn’t get to see this! I just bookmarked their website and I’m seriously thinking of making a Seattle Road Trip now (after I donate to pinky’s vet bills). That show just looks awesome!

    • imbibescribe August 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

      dude, seattle trip to see this would be WORTH IT

  2. JohnJayJay September 27, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    I wish I could share your enthusiasm for all things feline. Here’s one reason why I simply cannot: http://johnjayjay2.blogspot.com/2009/09/why-i-hate-cats.html Still, whilst reading this post, I was hoping to hear that there was cat juggling involved (thank you Steve Martin)…or at the very least, 300 cats with red rubber noses emerging from a tiny, little, car…

  3. Jodie mann March 17, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    Man I loved the cat carnival review . If only shit like that would come to northern Alberta …. Just so I can laugh . The lady on stage and her serious expressions held me captivated . Well written – thank u for a great early morning read . Was late for work due to this blog !

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