Schulenberg’s Page: New York, Part CLVII

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My agent Pema Browne had gotten a beautiful male Persian kitten for her young son, Brian. The kitten was named Shalimar with a lot of Cat Fancy fancy cat aristocratic names added.

Brian was too young to have a kitten and Shalimar was becoming more and more traumatized as time went on.  Pema called me and since I’d admired and played with the kitten on my visits she asked if I’d like to have him.

I was thrilled and, with my friend Craig, went to collect him. Craig, upon reading all the pedigree papers, decided he should be renamed Stud!

He was the best behaved kitten!  And so relieved to be away from a very active three-year-old child!

A few months after I’d gotten him I woke up one morning and couldn’t find the kitten anywhere!  By this time he’d been renamed Tybalt “the prince of cats.” This was my brother’s suggestion and being a Shakespeare scholar he’d named all of his pets with names from Shakespeare’s plays.  Juliet’s brother was Tybalt and the name suited the kitten and so it stuck!

But where was Tybalt?  He couldn’t have gotten out of the apartment! I went to the window and looked down to the garden.  There I saw Tybalt’s head lying on the patio floor!

I climbed out of the window, jumped down and limping, went toward Tybalt’s head.  It turned out that he was fine and was hiding in  a garden drain pipe with only his head sticking out! I, however, had done something to a toe!

To make sure he was okay I took Tybalt to the veterinary hospital.  He was fine, but I was still limping.

The week continued but still found it painful to walk without putting pressure on my toes.

The following Saturday, Bill, Gary and I visited Annie Rieger in her new apartment.

On Sunday, I was still really feeling uncomfortable walking so I went down the street to Lenox Hill Hospital to have someone look at my foot!

It seems that I had in fact dislocated a small bone in my foot as I jumped from the window into the garden to rescue Tybalt.  Ironic — he was fine but I had a need for a doctor!

Everyone had been talking about the new movie that had been shot in part on the streets of Manhattan.  It was Midnight Cowboy and I remembered the dinner party the previous year when Sylvia Miles arrived saying that she’d auditioned for it.

It was a bit racy because it dealt with the subject of homosexual prostitution with a new and unknown actor named Jon Voigt, who played a wannabe male hustler!  Warhol had broached the subject but this was a major Hollywood movie with real movie stars and not Warhol “super stars”!

Dustin Hoffman, who’d played a young preppie in The Graduate, was now playing an unhealthy street person!  He was, like Marlon Brando, certainly building a different kind of movie star career!

The audience was interesting in itself with some of the trendier people in attendance.

It didn’t seem that things were improving where the Vietnam War was concerned. The battles continued along with tremendous losses of lives and concurrently there were demonstrations of all kinds! Students taking control of colleges and universities and the Black Panther organization becoming more visible with continuing demands for equal rights for African Americans and complaints about police brutality.

More optimistically, NASA had successfully flown a manned rocket to within nine miles of the moon’s surface! A few days after this I went back to Lenox Hill Hospital for a checkup on my injured foot!

I had to wait.

But I had my sketchbook with me so I could take advantage of the time I was waiting by having people around me that I could draw.

And there were quite a few.

It was interesting to overhear some of the conversations among the people waiting.

They told me I had to have it thinned so I could walk better.”

“… Now you walk better?”

“Now I can’t walk at all!

Nothing seemed dire or really life threatening, but who could say?  Most people just sat quietly.

“I’m tired of everything — but what can y’do?”

“Would you go to a nursing home?  You’d have someone t’take care of y’.”

I sat listening and wondering if some of these people’s neediness might be the cause of their maladies.  They were some of the working class people who lived in the neighborhood and things were changing in Yorkville.  Many if not most of them had lived in their apartments for decades!  They had become accustomed to the slow pace and European feel of the neighborhood and a few new buildings were just beginning to appear.

It was interesting that nobody was talking about the war or the protesting or Nixon or even the changes — it was mostly small talk about the state of their health or treatments.

This woman appeared to be more worldly and less vulnerable.  I wondered about her.

It was, after all, the Upper East Side and it was still being called “The Silk Stocking District.”

Finally they saw me, checked my foot and declared me cured!

I left and went home to Tybalt.



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