For Professor Baron Von Pickles, the opening of the new Simmzy's restaurant was the last straw.
A lifelong resident of Belmont Shore, "Pickles" as his buddies liked to call him, took pride in his exhaustive knowledge of the neighborhood. He knew the hot restaurants, the cool coffee shops, the hip clothing stores and the working class Irish bars. But what he saw on this day would change his life forever.
As Pickles made his way through the back alleys which parallel 2nd street, he found himself more than ready to get back to his home base for a good nap. He had had a busy day, "chasing birds", as he would call it and knew it was time to recharge the old battery. The hum of the vibrant neighborhood rang in the distance as he strutted with a suave confidence past the back doors and dumpsters of the many fine establishments the Shore had to offer.
"This is my town" he said to himself.
But as Pickles crossed La Verne, he found it difficult to ignore the sounds of a bustling new eatery known as “Simmzy’s” which was overflowing with food, drink and raucous laughter. Also hard to ignore, was the newly renovated side of the restaurant which now could open up to the street, making it extremely convenient for people to eat and drink as their dogs soaked up the sunshine thus creating a veritable doggy Shangri La.
As he surveyed the scene, Pickles determined that this was as egregious and embarrassing a show of “human on dog” love that Belmont Shore had ever seen. Sure, he had seen this type of thing before at other restaurants on 2nd street, but on this day, the pure and unadulterated joy that was being had by the humans as they hand fed bits of hamburger to their stupid smug faced dogs, was simply too much to bear. Professor Baron Von Pickles, usually known for his calm and cool demeanor, simply snapped.
And so it was on that day the Cat Union was born.
Pickles knew he would have to be the one to organize this movement. He was a natural leader, and commanded respect not only for his oozing charisma, but also for having once spent 34 days in the local animal shelter. ("Doin the time", as he called it.) Professor Baron Von Pickles could walk and talk with feline royalty, but at the same time understand the issues of the common cat. Put simply, he was an "everycat". Men cats wanted to be him and women cats wanted to be with him. The Tom Hanks of cats if you will. If the Rudyard Kipling poem "If" were about a cat...it would be this one…well...you get the point.
The formation of a Cat Union certainly would not be easy. The Belmont Shore cat neighborhood was historically divided among a series of individual cat gangs that did not always get along. Similar to Martin Scorcese's "Gangs of New York", but different,because they were cats. Pickles would have to bring together rival factions such as the “West Side Kitties”, “The Gato Vato's” and “The Ballers of Twine”. He would have to show them all that a greater good could be within paws reach, if only they could work together.
It was approximately 10pm, or 6pm "Cat Standard Time" when this wild eyed Patch reporter received a call way past his bedtime from someone identifying themselves as an associate of Pickles named "Officer McMuffin".
"Professor Baron Von Pickles is ready to talk."
"Who is this?" I sleepily asked
"My name is McMuffin, and I am his assistant…and oh yes... I am a talking cat."
Needless to say, as a budding feline journalist, I was quite thrilled to get the scoop. The legendary Pickles was ready to speak, and had chosen to grant me the very first interview. However, I soon began to think this odd, because of my long and storied history as a dog person, as well as my notorious allergies to all cats, but i was still anxious to meet the leader and I could not miss out on this chance.
1 day later we met up at an undisclosed location, underneath a Chevy Astro minivan parked a half block off 2nd street.
"Thank you for meeting me"
He spoke with a vaguely Spanish accent, which I found regal, snobbish, and at the same time, deeply charismatic. (I would find out later that he learned his English from Dos Equis commercials.)
"You must not report my whereabouts. Security is of the utmost importance when you are undertaking something so dangerous as this. Evil, stupid dogs are always among us."
"Why did you choose me? I am a dog person"
"We have all read your captivating piece on Bono, and we think that if you are stupid enough to follow him around, then you are probably willing to give us a fair shake. Also, a lot of us cats have been talking and your Murphy Dog seems to possess some cat like tendencies"
He grinned as he said it, which I took to mean he was giving my dog a compliment. I had no idea what it really meant, but I was sure as heck not going to let Murphy know about it.
"So what is it that you want?" I bravely asked.
Pickles looked to his left, then to his right, then licked his front paw.
"We are starting a Cat Union"
"A Cat Union?"
"Yes. Quite simply, we have had enough. Enough of the residents of Belmont Shore treating us a second class pets. It is time that we come out of the shadows.”
"What does that mean?"
"Well for starters, we want access to 2nd street. We want to be able walk proudly up and down the street, without worrying that some slobbery beast will come lunging at us from the fence of Taco Surf. And would it kill anyone to have little dishes for US to drink water? Also, we want our own Cat Beach, and dammit, we want Justin Rudd to throw us a parade once in a while. Don’t you think that we too would like be dressed up like the characters from Harry Potter and paraded up and down 2nd street? And another thing, if you dog humans and your dumb dogs come walking down a sidewalk that I happen to be lying on...it should be YOU that gets out of the way, not me. I was here first."
"And what will happen if the cat union does not get its demands?"
"We follow a model of civil disobedience such as with Gandhi’s legendary cat, Doctor Meow. We are non-violent cats, but ...let me just tell you... roughly 2 blocks from here looks like it could serve as an awfully big litter box for us."
And with that Professor Baron Von Pickles licked his paws, escaped into a side alley and was gone.
Who knows what will happen next? One thing is for certain, the cats of Belmont Shore have become organized, and we all need to take heed.