Furry Security in Hamtramck

In the days of Ancient Mesopotamia, humans claimed to see a cat in the night sky.

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Millennia later, members of modern human civilization still connect the disparate dots millions of miles away in recognition of that same cat: the constellation, Leo the Lion.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Terrestrially speaking, live Panthera leo prowl across African open planes and through dense brush landscapes. As a motif, the same sub-species has traversed traditions of assorted eras and areas. The lion is filmed roaring for MGM trademark footage, printed clawing across Bohemian coats of arms, and, ironically, encountered searching for its courage in classic narratives.

A lion fends off intruders from a Buddhist temple in Da Nang, Vietnam

Humans have also typecast the courageous cat as a universal security guard for its shelters. Scowling bronze lions menacingly guard imperial Chinese palaces; monumental marble statues magnificently flank NYC cultural institutes. Chiseled lion visages grimace at passersby from the stone slabs that construct grandiose apartment buildings. On such facades, the muscular cat’s bestial behaviors threaten as its regal physique adorns.

IMG_0868But for as powerful as the lion sculptures seem, their power to protect carries a fundamental limitation: it is symbolic. The animals are inanimate, figurative facades in themselves—like how starry Leo’s existential state is really a bunch of big, burning gas balls far out in the universe.

Meanwhile in Hamtramck, Michigan, residents practice a more pragmatic means of employing felidae for protective purposes.

They use living breathing cats–of smaller sizes.

BlogBWLions may be the choice animal for the football team of the greater city that engulfs the city of Hamtramck. With Tigers, too, for baseball, it seems that Detroit has designated ferocious felines as its athletic juggernauts. But for home security, the domestic cat is suitable, size-wise. Two or three-story, freestanding urban homes of the American Midwest have no need for 600 pounds of cat.

IMG_0644Some porch cats are solitary.

PorchClowderOthers flourish in groups. Similar to the lionesses in prides, several mother cats congregate in clowders to raise their young and find ways to procure nourishment for their kittens, kith, and kin. Their tom counterparts? Perhaps off fending their turf–or marking it, or lazing upon it–like their lion cousins do.

HamhousesWhether the Hamtramck inhabitants intended it or not, their lion substitute is apt. In a 2010 study by the University of Edinburgh, researchers found that domestic cats and African lions exhibited a trio of similar personality traits: dominance, impulsiveness, and neuroticism.

For defensive purposes, letting a dominant, impulsive, and neurotic lion pace in front of the home may sound like a smart protection strategy. Inside the home, well… those three virtues might make for some problematic behavior.

fat_cat001 copyAn five- or ten-pound creature acting in such a manner should probably be less destructive to indoor settings.

Inclusive of the interior and exterior environments of Hamtramck’s residential edifices, cats have traveled along countless trajectories throughout human history. Their domestication took place thousands of years ago, possibly around the rodent-fraught grain silos of what is now Egypt. Members of same ancient society considered cats to be a deity. One of their iconic relics still stands as the world’s largest monolith: the Sphinx of Giza.  Although many uncertainties still surround the lion-man limestone statue–what the Ancient Egyptians called it, which Pharaoh built it, how the nose broke off its face–the colossus still shows us the deep roots of humankind’s fascination with felidae.

catpostShould the foundations of contemporary civilization come tumbling down, it seems likely that we’ll have some four-legged friends to join us in the ongoing evolutionary journey.

IMG_0896But until then, we can indulge in the sumptuous comforts that periods of peace offer…

Coming and Going

Come summertime, Portland turns into a new place. The sun shines, and people breeze by on their bikes, showing off their cherished cut-off clothing that they have had in storage all year, looking forward to the magic day they do not have to suffer from constant dampness.

I was sitting on the bench the other day and a woman noticed how smiley everyone had become, as they had certainly earned it. I absolutely agree with that, as I’ve visited places where it is nice all year round, and no one appreciates it. I remember when I was in school in upstate New York, the first day of sun was so cherished, and everyone was out on their picnic blankets or playing volleyball or chess in the communal dorm yards. When the sun was nearing sunset, and the shadows would encompass our space, we would always move our blanket down a few feet over and over to catch the continuous rays.

I’ve been trying to watch the sunset every night that it’s clear. I’m skipping tonight because it is cloudy. However, I did watch it from my roof three days in a row, which was quite a treat. I get a spectacular view of the sun setting over the hills of pine-infested trees on the west side of the Willamette to the West, and then an interesting shadowed view of Mount Saint Helens to the North. This volcano looks white from its snow during the day, but during sunset, it gets shades of mystical purple.

I went to the bluffs off of Skidmore Street a couple nights ago, and that was quite a scene. People had picnics already set up, and were sipping wine and eating cheese and waiting for the magic colors to appear upon the solar descent.

Tomorrow, I shall leave. Though enjoyable in this weather, I’ve been here pretty much all alone, with no one to share my experience with, unless you count my cats. I’m looking forward to my flight to New York tomorrow night. Although it’s supposed to be hot and sticky and mosquito infested, I’m excited to see new old faces. I’m excited to see the trees have turned into summer, with their full leaves in stock and on display, because I was there last in Spring when everything was just budding. I have about a dozen potential plans I’d love to turn into reality, and I hope I have more to do than I expect.