25 February 2006

Cat ears

This is a parable of San Francisco and freak nation.

Once upon a time, I was keeping company with a lady who had just migrated north from Los Angeles. She was a cacophanist and burner and so forth — a citizen of freak nation. Like many women of the nation, she owned a pair of costume cat ears, and was very fond of wearing them. They are a silly but flattering accessory for almost anyone, and this particular pair was as subtle and elegant as cat ears can be, plus something about them happened to suit her especially well.

When we would make plans, she would ask of the venue, “can I wear my kitty ears there?” I would shrug and say “sure,” and she would sometimes get quite exercised about my failure to take the question seriously. At the time, I presumed that she thought she looked sillier in them than she actually did, not understanding that there was some alchemy to this particular pair on her that worked especially well.

Looking back, I have a different explanation.

See, I'm writing this because last night, a neighbor rang me up, saying “I hear that zombies are massing in Union Square.” I was disappointed to have missed the downtown zombie attack last summer, so we went to check it out, singing “The Time of the Season” as we made our way down Geary Street.

Disappointingly, it turned out that there were only about a dozen zombies, doing a little zombie dance, rather than a terrifying horde marauding through town moaning for b-r-a-i-n-s. But hey, I love living in a town where I can afford to be disappointed when an unplanned fifteen minute foray out of my apartment for random guerilla street theatre only nets a dozen dancing zombies.

So, returning to the cat ears: I had forgotten that in most of America, you can't wear cat ears anywhere you want. Having recently come from Los Angeles, this lady was still accustomed to thinking before wearing too much whimsical costumery, because she had undoubtedly encountered some disapproving looks. But here in San Francisco, if you turn up at a shmancy blow-the-rent restaurant wearing cat ears with your elegant cocktail dress — or a tailcoat and top hat, or a well-made zoot suit, or a little understated face paint — the maître d’ will smile warmly and show you to a good table. There are limits, mind you; you probably couldn't get away with a pirate costume at a fancy restaraunt. But cat ears? In San Francisco, you could wear cat ears to the opera and even the society matrons with the scary facelifts will smile.

It's easy to forget how extraordinary that is. Oh, I love my town.


Anonymous said...

Oh, gods.

Yes, that's it. That's that Weird Feeling I've been having since being home, that weird sense of "Yes, but will it play in New Braunfels?"

Even in "weird" Austin, you can't quite wear cat ears anywhere.

And no zombies, really, to speak of. ;-)

Jenn said...

FYI, pirate costumes garner free food at Cha Cha Cha. Learned this after Nifer's pirate birthday party.

After the Battle of Stowe Lake (in paddle boats), my crew and I were too lazy to climb back up the hill in the middle of Stowe Lake a second time with our pathetic picnic, so went to the Haight for food. They took off their costumes, but I think the kitchen staff liked mine and kept sending over stuff that they had "accidentally" made.

A friend has invited me to a pirate party tonight, and we are going to wear the same costumes to an "Alice in Wonderland" themed party later in the evening. :)

Reya Mellicker said...

Thorn bought me a warm, cozy, kitty ear hat a few years ago, but I gave up trying to wear it in DC after being meowwed at by the very people on the street I prefer not to interact with. One neighbor said, "Are you a bear or a cat?" to which I replied, "I'm a woman, wearing a funny hat." It wasn't worth the effort; I sewed the cat ears flat and now I look like everyone else in my little fake fur cloche, sans kitty ears.

Kate said...

I remember that woman and if I had known this about her perhaps I would have been more fond of her.



Fable Doe said...

Sadly, it's true of "weird" Austin. I moved here thinking the slogan "Keep Austin Weird" was legit, but no. I miss San Fran. However, screw lame Austinites. Nothing stops me. I DO wear cat ears and bunny ears and devil horns and Minnie Mouse ears everywhere I go and have yet to be ousted. Woe to the first who does. Woe. ;) Great post, puddin. ENJOYED IT~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think I would have liked your fellow kitty cat friend. :)~ Fable