Saturday, November 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Toulouse!... A Cat is a Cat is a Cat…Or is it?

To celebrate his birthday today, I treated Toulouse to lunch at The Knot Pub in Lunenburg. The Knot is a friendly pub where locals go to eat homemade food and tell stories. According to the staff, “the person sitting next to you could be a scallop fisherman, Christmas tree farmer, Norwegian sailor, world famous actor, musician, painter, or scholar – you never know who you’re going to meet at The Knot! The outside looks a bit like a quaint little seafaring shack complete with port hole in the front door. Inside the pub exudes sea-shanty charm, with lots of local boat building oak, nautical brass fittings, copper pennies on the ceiling, flags and other nautical things. The place even has its resident ghost, a lady who apparently glides by, especially when you’ve had a few too many pints.

Sarah recommended the Knot's Ale, made by the Propeller Brewery, a lovely nut-brown ale rich in complicated flavors that quench your thirst.

We drank copious amounts of Knot's Ale over an exquisite platter of seafood appetizers. Then for our late lunch we chose their recommended Pub Club. We hesitated over their delectable home-cut fries then went with the Greek salad. They didn’t skimp on the feta and the dressing was tasty but not over-stated.

We lingered over our delicious lunch, feeling very happy and continued to pick at our appetizers. Our conversation wandered over a diverse tapestry of topics that covered our many adventures and landed on some very odd subjects indeed. Here are some highlights.

Of course the Caribbean cruise came up and the subject of Toulouse’s rather deft handling of a Harley Davidson Sportster during our tour of Cozumel:

“Where did you learn to drive one of those? And how,” I probed, “DO you negotiate the handle bar with only a… well… stuffed paw?” I felt a little like I was back on my sentient ship, Benny, interroga—er—interviewing Jean-Luc Picard or Lynn Margulis.

Toulouse shrugged and helped himself to the last olive. “Some things are not knowable in the visible world…”

I laughed. He was doing his Zen of Travelling thing again. “Like that deadly coral snake on the stairway of the Mayan Temple,” I added. “The one that you did the Jedi mind trick on …”

Toulouse smiled and stroked his whiskers. “Yeah, that one,” he said. I think he started to purr…

I then raised my third glass of beer to my feline friend and grinned with delight. “Happy birthday, Toulouse!” I must have said that for the tenth time.

Toulouse responded with the same enthusiasm he did the previous nine toasts: a vigorous nod, a hearty sip of his Propeller ale and a great big smile. “This time last year we were on a road trip across Canada and arrived in Nova Scotia in time to see her beautiful autumn colors,” he said.

“Yes, and on my last birthday, we were in Switzerland, celebrating a royal dinner made by a Prince in the pastoral village of Merlischachen. Then I got my birthday wish and we were detained by Eyjafjallajokull! For a whole other two weeks!”

“Ah, is that what happened? You made a wish?” Toulouse raised a brow (yes, cats have brows: check next time—if your cat lets you, that is…) and stroked his whiskers with a paw. “We made the best of our situation with a grand exploration of the true Switzerland, didn’t we?”

Our exploration of Lake Lucern  and the Swiss Alps led us into truly enchanting places like the magical forests of the Wagetaler See. “We sure got to know the Swiss.” I laughed.

“And their cafe cremes!” Toulouse said, purring.

It turned out to be perhaps the best trip I’d ever experienced. We’d given ourselves to the moment and all that it offered. And all because of a pesky volcano.

Toulouse helped himself to an olive. He cocked his head and studied me for a moment. “And weren’t we in New York around your birthday the year before?"

I nodded, remembering our walks through Manhattan and how Toulouse ended up on the butt of a Policeman's gun.

"And wasn't it Paris on a previous birthday of yours?”

I laughed again and leaned back in my chair with fond memories. “Yes, the city of lights! My favorite city in some ways, Toulouse… Your town. You showed me some of your old haunts. Remember the Jardin des Tuileries where we snuck in a bottle of red wine and soft camembert cheese and sat on a park bench to enjoy the best of Paris? We savored escargot, exotic cheeses and fine wine…every day!” I summoned my memory cells into overdrive. “And weren’t we in Niagara Falls on your birthday before that?”

Toulouse grinned like a Cheshire Cat… well, he IS a cat, after all. “You’d launched your book, Darwin’s Paradox in Toronto and were touring with book signings all over the planet, but mostly in Ontario…”

I laughed. “I never could figure out why Torontonians liked my book so much considering that my story had their own city practically destroyed by an industrial plague.”

“They like a good thrill,” Toulouse said. “The Niagara Falls hydro-electric power plant was the creation of Nikola Tesla, did you know? One of your heroes.”

I nodded. Yes, I did know. “He helped build the first hydro-electric power plant in 1895, which started the electrification of the world. He was way ahead of his time. A brilliant man and so misunderstood.”

“There’s a statue of him in Niagara Falls NY to commemorate the historic event. That’s where we met, remember?”

“How could I forget!” I said. “Seems like we’ve known each other for much longer.”

“Yes, it does, doesn’t it?…Well, we’ve had enough adventures together to last some people’s lifetimes…”

“And many more to come!” I added. “We haven’t been out in space together yet…”Then I blurted out, “Where are you really from, Toulouse?” He grinned and stroked his whiskers again. I knew he wouldn’t tell me. I hadn’t plied him with enough beer. “I mean, it isn’t every day one encounters a stuffed cat with such style and finesse…A cat who speaks six languages fluently and knows how to make a Café de Paris sauce…” I said.

“Did you know that cats were very sacred to the ancient Egyptians?” he said. I thought it a clever ruse to draw me away from the subject of his origin. “Cats were considered demigods. Anyone caught harming or killing a cat, even by accident, was put to death.”

I sipped my beer and couldn’t help wondering if this had anything to do with Toulouse’s history.“Like Bast,” I said proudly. “The Egyptian cat-goddess and protector of women, children and domestic cats.”

Toulouse looked impressed. “She was also the goddess of sunrise, music, dance, and pleasure as well as family, fertility, and birth,” he added. “She was known as the Light Bearer and the Lady of Truth.”

I had my little computer sitting on the table with me, as per usual, and as Toulouse helped himself to more salad, I surreptitiously googled ‘Bast’ and glanced at the information. Her credentials were impressive. I tapped my lips with my finger as though digging into my memory. “I seem to recall that her name means devouring lady. She has the body of a woman and the head of a domestic cat, doesn’t she?”

Toulouse nodded and I proudly went on, “She’s normally shown holding the sacred rattle, called a Sistrum, and she’s symbolized by the Wadjet, the divine, all-seeing eye of Ra.”

Toulouse nodded again. “Good googling, Nina.” He’d caught my wandering eye. “Yes, Ra gave Bast the Uraeus or serpent of wisdom,” Toulouse happily added. “According to Herodotus, Bast was a happy and benign Deity who brought good fortune, music, dance and joy to everyone.”

Remind you of anyone? I laughed and drained my glass. The attentive waiter brought us two more bottles of Propeller ale and a complimentary platter of fresh steamed mussels. I think he was listening in on our conversation and wanted to hear more.

“Did you know that Wadjet means whole or healthy?” Toulouse went on, taking his newly charged wine glass in his paw. “It’s also a symbol of life and resurrection. And therefore, thought to have healing powers.”

“I heard that the symbol was used as a measurement system for ingredients in medicines, pigments, land and grain. It could be divided into six symbols and fractions all to do with the various senses like taste, smell, and sight.”

“Yup,” returned Toulouse after a long sip of his beer. “The Rx symbol used by pharmacies originated with the Eye of Horus. The fractions symbolized the shattering of Horus’s eye by the god Sett into six pieces. The system of fractions is based on halves, starting with half of one then half of that and so on until you get 1/64.” He then leaned forward on his little paws. “ Did you know that when you add the symbols together the total comes to 63/64? Some scholars suggest that the remaining 1/64 represents the magic used by Thoth to restore Horus’s eye but others think it means that perfection isn’t possible.”

“What do you think?” I asked.

His big glass eyes sparkled in the rich amber light of the pub. “I think it’s a good metaphor for achieving spiritual wholeness. It takes a little magic to find all your parts and become whole.” Then he grinned that Cheshire Cat grin again and I began to wonder if he’d brought up Bast for more than to simply distract me. Wait! I was the one who brought up Bast!...

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Toulouse… :)

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.


ramonalisa said...

This cat is not just a cat, it is a " Cool Cat ". Happy Birthday Toulouse. We are happy to have met you and hope to see you again soon. Tell your lovely master, that we send greetings from Mount Uniacke.:)

SF Girl said...

Greetings back, Ramonalisa from Mount Uniacke! :)

Both the Cool Cat and I had a most wonderful time with you and do count on seeing us again! :)

I wish you all a wonderful life-journey. Will keep in touch.

Warm Regards,

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Happy birthday to the cool travel cat.

SF Girl said...

Thanks, Jean-Luc! I will pass on your good wishes to the Cool Cat... :-3

Anonymous said...

Cats are cool!! Happy Birthday to the Cool Travel Cat!

Baby Brie

cv said...

The Knot is my best one for ever..anyways happy birthday cat! am scared of cats!!

Careers CV

Magento Templates said...

A great blog post for sure, wishing you a very Happy Birthday Toulouse, have a great day....

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