Chatological Humor: Feral cats

Dec 03, 2019

You asked for it and you got it. Gene holds weekly mini-chats every Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET, where he takes your questions about what's happening in the country — and anything else you want to discuss.

Here is this week's poll.

Good afternoon. 

A lot of mail about my most recent column, concerning a cat named Buster.  At least four thousand people (I stopped counting at 3,707) demanded a photo of Buster.   Here it is, relaxing indoors when the weather outside turned frisky.  Yeah, he is pretty much ours now.  It is an unusual and interesting experience, bringing in a feral cat, and finding common grounds for love and help.  Buster is entirely recovered.  I watched him leap 6 feet into a tree just yesterday,  

I used to hate cats. 

Please take the poll.  I'll be explaining it shortly.  Chat begins at noon sharp. 

Pretty funny today. I went with "expresso" since it's not a word that comes up off-ten in my household so I figured I could deal with it. I would either have to shoot the person or myself with off-ten and ek-cetera. (Sidebar: I live in the South, where they say VEE-hickle, pronouncing the H in vehicle. Fortunately, my southern husband doesn't say this or I would have divorced him long ago). I went with 10% tipping because I figured I could find a way to slip the wait staff a few more bucks. That 95% would take someone 50lbs overweight over a Trump admirer is hysterical! Love you chatters.

It is my favorite poll result of all time.  The Trump one. 

... are at it again, ironically enough, engaging in a tweet war. I just LOVE this, but how much impact do you think George is having? I admire the man for putting morality above his marriage to a Trump Puppet; I wonder how long it'll be before they break up their obviously incompatible marriage?

I have a theory.  It is based on the faux hate relationship I have with Tom The Butcher.  

I think they are enjoying this.  They are pols.  It is a game. 

I'm already a cat guy, so I didn't need convincing, but there's nothing in your Magazine story about Buster that I didn't like. Even the horrific deaths of local wildlife. The idea of him bringing gifts for caring for him brings tears to the eyes. But also consider this: he probably sized you and Rachel up, and decided, "these two CLEARLY can't hunt well enough for their survival, so I'd better help 'em out."

Very good point.  He loves us, but also contemns us. 

As you're the only person I know who has successfully written a book, where does a novice like me turn for help? 40-something mom of 2 babies and I'm having fun writing fiction. It's 3rd person, set in present day - what tense do I use? I've checked books I like and it seems evenly split between "she said" and "she says".

NEVER use present tense.  It is pretentious.  You are welcome. 

A curvy patriot who wears expensive jeans and wants me to do interesting things to her during sexy time? As long as she doesn't use "ek-cetera" as her safe word, I'm in love!

Ek cetera is my worst horror.  I don't care what this lady looks like, or her other virtues.   She does not share my bed. We can assume she also does not wish to share my bed, which is fine, because she is a drooling idiot.  

That wasn't too tough. Hardest for me was choosing someone who buys $250 jeans, but that seems to be a sign of possibly one reckless proclivity, and maybe s/he only buys jeans like, once every three or four years. Never giving money to people who are homeless and only tipping ten percent are signs of unbearable cold-heartedness. (To be clear, *always* giving money to people who are homeless is sort of annoying in another way.)

I originally had always as another choice.   But decided it was misleading.  I know someone who always does it.  One, he does not live where I do, where there is a homeless person on every corner.  Two, it is his charity donation, for tax purposes, every year.   It amounts to a significant bundle of money, and I respect it, but I just don't know what to make of it. 

I thought the choices would be something truly awful and other than Trump admirer I could probably live with the rest. I was expecting mass murderer, kitten torturer or something like that.

I could not live with ek cetera or a ten percent tipper.  And yes the Trump supporter would be a deal breaker on any analysis, 

Older midwesterners say it, too. I think it's age rather than region.

Cops say it, too.  I have never understood this.  I can't think of another word that is manhandled like that.  

Oh, it's worse than you imagine (I imagine). He's pretending to oppose Trump or she's pretending to support him to keep getting invited to parties once this nightmare presidency is over. Both of them obviously have no values or they would have filed for divorce by now. They are both loathsome.

Your answer, and my explanation, are not necessarily contradictory.  

Is there even a contest? If you admire Trump, you admire or at least accept his reprehensible views about other human beings and about decency and civility. Including that you can make any sort of judgment about a person's character and value based on his or her weight.

Well put. 

These are the same dopes that call it a "gif" when giving presents.

Oh my f---ing God. 

Do you say Lis-ten?   Sof-ten?   Glis-ten?   Fas-ten?  

Just go away. 

Surely there is a non-cruel way to discourage Buster from delivering prey to you. Seems like every time you pick it up and take it away you are encouraging him. Suppose you just kick it out of your way and leave it there? Suppose you spray something smelly (bleach? ammonia?) around your doorstep? Suppose you put up a gate or something so he can't get to it? This isn't something I'd want to live with.

Fair enough.  But I don't want to reject him.  This is a love offering.  

What if she says "et cetera" correctly, but is a Trump admirer?

This is the best question today.  But the answer is obvious.  She gets MINOR credits for et cetera. 

Can we start a movement that involves smacking the heads of those talking heads in documentaries who use the historical present? It's worse than saying Vee-HICKLE, to me.

Yeah.  But no one listens to me. 

I taught for 41 years. While one can never be sure about what's sticking, I am positive my students will long remember my "home versus hone in" rant. (Great Sunday strip!)

Thank you.  Give credit to Horace LaBadie, who wrote most of it.  

After reading only half the book, I went to Amazon and gave it a 5-star review. Also, at a party over Thanksgiving, I recommended it to my friends as the perfect book for Christmas for absolutely anybody. What I don't understand is how you managed to do all that research, while writing your weekly column, your daily comic strip, and doing these chats. Just amazing. I am in the minority in the poll. I chose marrying somebody who only tips 10% because that is easily fixed by slipping the waiter some extra cash on the sly. I have some really cheap friends.

Thank you.  The answer to your first question, which I appreciate more than you know, is that my marriage ended and I began drinking too much, and waking up at 4 am in a blind panic every day, and crying by myself.   Do NOT EVER write a book.  

If my choices of mate are people listing their favorite movie as Wedding Crashers or Fifty Shades of Grey, I'll just take the firing squad right now, thank you.

You say that now, but will you change your mind when looking down Horst's rifle barrel?

I have exhausted that one.   But, yes.  How many of you see the in-joke in this cartoon?   You linked to today's, though.  Here is the one you are referring to:

Matalin and Carville made a nice living pretending to oppose each other's politics. The formula seems to work better when the wife is the conservative.

I never saw them address the joke behind it.  Did they ever?  I mean, to me, the binding attribute is politics, not specific politics.   A lawyer gets real joy out of arguing, in succession, opposite sides of an issue. you feel Trump's support is significantly weakened? Or does his so-called 'base' .. as in "stolen base" .. make itself so immune to rational thought as to be impervious to any fact?

I think he has a solid base, and nothing else.  43 percent.  add two, for people who are liars in polls.  he doesn't win. 

I’ve noticed Stephen King using a lot of present tense and (a) I think it works beautifully and (b) who the heck calls Stephen King pretentious?

I have met King.  I like him.  I will call him pretentious without fear of being called pretentious. 

One of my favorite anecdotes concerns James Carville and Mary Matalin. Apparently, after a heated debate on the set with Tim Russert, Carville and Matalin continued to debate on their way home. Carville wasn't paying attention, ran a STOP sign, and was pulled over by the police. When Carville rolled down the window to talk to the policeman, Matalin shouted something like, "give him a ticket, officer! He was speeding and you should give him a ticket!" Carville shot back, "shut up, woman!" Then the police officer said, to Matalin, "my goodness. Does he always talk to you like that?" Matalin replied, "only when he drinks."

I hope this is true. 

So I've now been sitting here like an idiot for several minutes, saying the word "vehicle" to myself, because of the comment about the "h". Can someone phonetically spell out how they say it WITHOUT the "h"?? "vee-kle?" The hell? (Grew up in Maryland - sorry - but that's not The South, either." I may not emphasize the "VEE," but I hear an "h" when I say it.

VEE-ickle.   You are welcome, hick. 

Your Buster looks so much like my Ollie that it hurts. The brown/gray fur, the well-marked stripes, the dark feet and white mouth, and especially the bold eyes looking *directly* into the camera like it's a challenge to his authority. Ollie died a little over a year ago, from cancer, after a long and happy life indoors. He was a TNR kitten who came out of the trap like a little feral hurricane and then turned friendly during his recovery. We adopted him at 6 months old and he was Big Boss Cat for the next 14 1/2 years. I hope Buster is very happy with his human and at least tolerating his cat roommie, and that you all are as happy as we were with Ollie.

Thank you.  It's going well.  

I just finished One Day, and loved it. I loved the concept of it, and the themed chapters. I felt that some chapters connected more strongly with the day than others, but all were good reflections on the era. I was a kid in 1986, but when I thought of the day I realized the general time was significant for me too. That was the year my parents gave me cookbooks for Christmas, setting up a love of the hobby. I really dove into those books right after Christmas so that when Mom returned to graduate school in the spring semester, I could plan what I was cooking for my one night a week. The previous semester was my first time cooking, and I followed Mom's explicit instructions for basic meals. There were some serious fails that first year, but also some successes. I discovered I loved making soup, for instance. I have one question on the Ellen's chapter. I noticed the dead naming and misgendering, but I also don't think you could have done the chapter without it. It just wouldn't have worked. Did you speak to Ellen about this? I wondered if she gave explicit or tacit permission, since dead naming and misgendering is a pretty big deal.

Hm.  I am confused.   Ellen is Ellen Krug, a woman born Ed who realized her gender as a mid-30s adult.   What happened on that day was significant in her transition.    I tried not to dead-name or misgender.   Did I screw up somewhere?  Ellen and I are friends, and I appeared on her podcast just the other day.  She didn't mention any problems.  I know that I quoted her describing herself as "transexual," and she says she had actually said "transgender," and I trust her on that.  Was there something I/she missed?



I have long (about 10 years) been annoyed with people who call this year"Two-thousand nineteen" versus "Twenty-nineteen." We don't need the extra syllable, people! But I am getting a little spittle-flecked raver about anyone who calls next year (in three weeks) "Two-thousand twenty."


Surely you know the (apocryphal?) story about Lincoln as a country lawyer? Circuit judge in town for the day. Lincoln argued one case in the morning and won it. In the afternoon, he had another case, on the same point of law, but had to argue the other side. The judge asked him how he could possibly say one thing this morning and other in the afternoon. Honest Abe replied "Well, Your Honor, I may have been wrong earlier, but I know I've got it right now!"

I HADN't heard that but I love it. 

You just nailed the reason I could never have been a lawyer. (My wife, however, has said on more than one occasion that I should have been a lawyer. I don't think she meant it as a compliment.)

I could have been a lawyer.  You just need a point beyond which you would go.  But by and large, a gigantic serious important principle is that in this country, everyone deserves a defense. 

Why do you care so much about accents (foreign, regional differences) and the way names are spelled, etc.? It seems very upsetting to you for reasons I don't understand. Are you just generally more xenophobic then you let on?

That is calumny.  I just don't like YOU. 

My wife could have given Yogi Berra a run for the money when it came to mangling the language. To her, you'd put a pie on the window seal to cool and a rope that was pulled tight would be taunt. I'd love to hear her voice say of-ten now.

This actually made me tear up. 

What wine pairs best with fresh city rat?

It depends if you are using a bechamel sauce or a simpler butter-garlic roux.    

My opinion varies daily on who Trump's worst official is but I'm getting pretty sure that A. G. Barr is the most dangerous. Could hardly find a worse toady to be in control of the Justice Department.

I realize this was not his appointment, but I think in a few months the man of the hour will be John Roberts.   I don't know what to expect.  I THINK and HOPE he has integrity,  

AND "short-lived" is pronounced with a long "i," damn it. Like Buster is "nine-lived," see? Am I the only person who sees this?


You used "the gig is up" in "One Day," which I am currently reading. I suppose you also noticed that on the back cover, the dreaded colon is included in the title of "Old Dogs"?

I did.  And that is what the comic strip was making fun of me for. 

I chose the option of never giving money to the homeless because I hoped you MAYBE were leaving wiggle room for someone like me who makes regular donations to House of Ruth and similar charities that aid the homeless, but is wary of giving $ directly to someone who asks for it on the street (although in fact I sometimes do that). I could not countenance a 10% tipper (clueless and/or mean spirited) or a person of modest means who spends $250 on jeans (not so much a fan of a wealthy person doing that, either).

I agree.  Totally. 

So I'm shallow, but Trump admirer vs. 50 lbs overweight? I pondered this for a while, and then figured a Trump admirer goes along with never giving money to the homeless, and if she's also really into 50 Shades of Gray there are a lot of possibilities here for controlling the expression of views I don't like, not to mention working out frustrations. (*I've* been known to say "expresso" on occasion, so that doesn't bug me. But if it did I could always place coffee on Anastasia's forbidden list.)

Expresso?  You are not worthy of a response. 

You said if you divorce you go back before the firing squad, you didn't say anything about becoming a widow/widower. 50lbs isn't a big deal to me, but I'll tell you right now, if I had to be married to a Trump supporter one of us is taking a round.

Noted.  Thank you, 

As someone who is somewhat seriously hearing impaired, I chose "expresso" since I'd never notice the difference. Speaking of never noticing the difference, can you not imagine that the reason someone might confuse "ek cetera" and "expresso" is due to hearing deficiency? Would that possibility undermine your condescension about it? It should. You're being unkind.

I don't know how to answer this.  I mean, I literally have no idea how to answer  this.  But I am publishing it. So,


As a hopeless moderate but still serious Christian, my brain exploded this AM while reading a quote attributed to currently 'acting' director of USCIS Ken Cuccinelli. Your colleague Petula Dvorak wrote "In 2012, he [Cuccinelli] gave a speech at the Christian Life Summit, where he spoke about churches taking a tough-love stance to breaking dependency and getting “out of the business of serving the poor.” Holy Cow (admittedly weak pun) - another mindless, insensitive remark from an avowedly conservative Christian that provides yet another 'Aha!' for the nonbelievers. Is there a 'Shanda for the Goyim'-like phrase for us Christians I can mutter as I lower my eyes and ruefully shake my head?

I don't think being Jewish means supporting Bernie Madoff or Jeffrey Epstein.   I think you are quite safe in your faith.   Jesus, I strongly suspect, would not have approved of Ken Cuccinelli.

I don't think being Jewish means supporting Bernie Madoff or Jeffrey Epstein.   I think you are quite safe in your faith.   Jesus, I strongly suspect, would not have approved of Ken Cuccinelli.

I sincerely believe that every time we say: "of course the Senate Republicans will never vote to remove Trump" we give them cover to fail in upholding their oaths. I'm not saying they'll do their jobs if we don't say that, but can we please stop making it so easy for them?

I like to think that voting for Trump will guarantee their loss at the polls.  I like to think that, the way I like to think Santa is real.  


I'm a never Trumper, "Any Sentient Adult in 2020," Massachusetts resident. And I chose the Trump admirer over the fatty. I'm disappointed with myself. I rationalize that I could say, "Darling, let's not talk politics."

So you could call this svelte monster "darling"?   I despise you, 

True enough, and if I were in trouble I'd want the most aggressive lawyer I could find. But there's a difference between compelling the prosecution to prove its case according to the rules, and sowing outlandish theories unsupported by any evidence. On one of those real-crime shows recently, I saw a defense lawyer make a ridiculous claim for his murderer-client, and the reporter said "But where's the proof?" The lawyer said "I don't have to prove it's true. The other side has to prove it's not." I would call that a perversion of justice.

It;s not,  It's called having a good lawyer.  I'm probably in the minority here, and we'll probably discuss this, via a poll, in the near future. 

You probably say "'istory", too. Don't you. Pretentious snob.

Istory?  As in history?

Don't forget down south the drive on the cee-ment

I loved the cee-ment pond.  One of nine chatters will understand that reference. 

Note: I am cisgendered, so this is going off what I've heard and read from people in the trans community. I could be misunderstanding it. It's likely that some trans people are more bothered by this than others, because that's the way the world works, and I trust that Ellen would have spoken up if she were bothered since you are friends. So, to expand on my statement, it is my understanding that referring to a transperson by the gender of their birth is a no-no, even when referring to them before the transition. Same with the name. The idea is that the post-transition person is the true person, so the old gender and name doesn't apply. But, again, I don't know how you could have written that chapter without it.

Ah.  Interesting.  Well, in this case it was unavoidable, and would have been seriously weird if I deviated from it.  The book was about a specific day, a day in which she was presenting to the world as a man.  She FELT she was a man.    There was some suspense in what was awry, a suspense that developed through the chapter.   Don't think there was a sin there. 

....why do so many Senate Republicans (about 98%) follow the creep's every wish?

Because they suck.  I now have to resign as a representative of the Washington Post. 

The prosecution has to prove its charges are true; the defense doesn't have to prove that they're not. It's called "innocent until proven guilty."

Yes.  I feel strongly about this.  I have zero antipathy for the lawyers, for example, who represented the Nuremberg monsters. 

I just posted about the true-crime show. Specifically: A rapist-murderer (subsequently convicted) claimed that he had an ongoing secret sexual relationship with his teenage victim, and somebody else must have killed her immediately after he had sex with her in the woods. His lawyer was supporting his story. I say lock them BOTH up.

That's up close to my limit. 

Okay, you make fun of the way they pronounce, but whose accent is easier on the ears, a Southerner's or a New Englander's or a New Yorker's?


Beverly Hillbillies backyard swimmin' hole.


From Merriam-Webster: ve·​hi·​cle | \ ˈvē-ə-kəl also ˈvē-ˌhi-kəl \

Well, you have hit on a pet peeve.   The dics don't proclaim what is correct.  They list what people are saying.  Pretty soon they will list "piz-ghetti"

Pronouncing the T in often is listed as acceptable in a few dictionaries that I checked, not so those other words you compared it with. A generation ago I dated a girl who said it that way, and found it endearing when she did so. I also have a tendency to do it on occasion.

You suck.  So does she. whom would I send them to do the most good with the least risk?


So do you say "humble" or "umble"? "Herb" or "erb"?

Humble.  Herb.   Erb is an American idiocy. 

Somm here. It's a lean, gamy meat, so you need a richer wine like syrah or zinfandel. (Red, not the pink kind.) You're welcome.

I will accept that you are a sommelier, and happily pass this on. 

What do you think of the string of senators who are now promoting the Russian fantasy that Ukraine meddled in the election on behalf of Clinton? These guys (Burr, Kennedy etc.) are generally intelligent, accomplished men; what compels them to abase themselves like this?

Zero character.   Utter lack of morality. 

The republican theory seems to be that Ukraine interfered in our election by suppressing minority and liberal voting groups because they didn't like Trump and liked Clinton? They would jeopardize crucial US support in their war against Russian hegemony by acting like fools?

Yes, that is their theory and 42 percent of the idiot electorate buys it. 

Your quiz didn't present the Sophie's choices I expected. Sure, pronouncing the "t" in "often" is both wrong and a bit of an affectation, but "ek-cetera" and "expresso" are just egregious. Never giving money to the homeless and particularly always tipping 10% are not just miserly but also profoundly unkind whereas only buying $250 jeans (and I assume you mean "only buying $250 jeans when s/he needs pants" and not "literally only buying $250 jeans and so also never buying groceries or books") is wasteful and unnecessary, sure, but also indicative that the person enjoys some indulgences, which means we'll splurge from time to time on other extravagances we really oughtn't because life is short. A Trump supporter is a fundamental impossibility, period, and comparing it to a weight issue is pretty rude. I struggled most with the movie choices: I find "Wedding Crashers" to be obnoxious and misogynistic (my own sense of humor tends more toward, say, Wes Anderson - whatever that says about me), but while of course "50 Shades of Gray" is awful in every way, you left room to maneuver there -- maybe they adore "50 Shades of Gray" ironically in a "Mystery Science Theater 3000" kind of way. So pretentious, indulgent, chubby, and wry vs ignorant, cheap, cruel, and obnoxious... Apparently that's an easy choice for me.

Thank you.  I may need to marry you, unless you are a guy, NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT IT'S JUST WRONG FOR ME. 

Newspaper comics in general are on a great upswing in terms of quality and humor. My hypothesis is since nobody reads newspaper comics unless they are a very determined person with a sense of humor, the writers and artists are more free than they've been in decades. All the outraged morons are channeled elsewhere. Is there a better or even slightly optimistic reason you can see from the inside?

HM.  I am not sure I buy your central thesis.   

I read the chat weekly (or whenever it happens), but don't always enjoy your schtick. I had almost forgotten how much I really do appreciate your real writing. I was introduced to your work through 'Fiddler in the Subway', and have been following since then. I bought the latest book as a Christmas gift for my brother, but read it before I wrapped it up. I enjoyed it, and he will, too.

How dare you criticize my shtick?

Imagine if the male member of the duo worked at the White House and the female was tweeting heretical comments. Don't you think Trump would tell his "guy" to rein in the little woman? But he doesn't appear to be penalizing Kellyanne for her disgruntled spouse--of course, being the wife she can hardly tell him to shut up.

You know, this is an interesting point.  I'm interested.  You may be on to something. 

There's no point trying to discourage Buster from bringing you "presents" -- that's what cats do. They're predators, and it's in their DNA to hunt and kill prey. You might as well try to reason with a hard-core supporter of Der Gropenführer. (Actually, I'd take the cat any day as a conversation companion.)

Feral Cats are interesting.  They are vicious killers, horrifyingly violent, and also capable of genuine affection.  Kind of like humans!

Gene, We get it. Your unfortunate circumstances when you were young - growing up in The Bronx - left you with a speech impediment. You need to stop being so angry about it. Just embrace the fact that you are a little (a lot?) odd.

I do not know what you are referring to exactly, but I accept responsibility. 

Thank you. 

That's the WHOLE POINT of our criminal justice system- that anyone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A good defense lawyer introduces whatever doubt she can into the jury's mind. A good prosecutor counters it. THIS IS A FEATURE, NOT A BUG.

Perfectly stated.  It is the worst legal system in the world, except for all others. 

As the sommelier pointed out, rat is lean and gamy. It does great in a braise. Herbs de Provence stand up well.

I think the key question, as one is often required when serving fish:  Do you present the dish with the head on, or not?

Is it okay to read a book before you gift it? I like my books pristine.

It is not okay unless it is my book and you have bought at least four copies. 

Or should I buy your book?

If Barnaby is dead, does that mean you buy my book?  Barnaby is dead.   I strangled him.  

If you had to pick one of the many lesser Democratic candidates to contest big time with the three 70-somethings, would you have chosen Buttigieg? Not sure I would have.

I think so.   Or Booker. 

She's solid black and we found her the week before Halloween. Or rather, she found me. She stepped out from under a bush and called to me as I walked by. I couldn't leave her outside, considering the horror stories of what people do to black cats around Halloween. She was underfed, jumping with fleas, walked then (and still) with a weird bent to her front legs, and had a strong, piercing yowl. We didn't think she'd live a long life, but my husband and I wanted her to be safe and home she came. Calliope is 18. She still pulls her toys out of their box to play with and still rules the younger cat. She jingles her collar tag to announce herself and to answer her name. Our vet suggested that maybe, instead of being the abandoned runt of the litter, she was the strongest one. I will be shattered when we lose her.

I am publishing this, because. 

Yeah, we all get that. But both sides have to stick to the facts. Just as the prosecution doesn't get to send people to prison without evidence, the defense doesn't get to claim "Martians must have done it! Prove they didn't!"

If that is the best defense, that is EXACTLY what they have to do.   


Head off. Tail on. Easier to pick up when eating.

Thank you.  This made me laff.  We are done for the day.  See you alls next week. 

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

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