The oddest thing has happened. Our Ted, ordinarily the most sober of felines, has developed a chemical dependency. Okay, maybe not a dependency as such, but certainly a strong affinity, a habit. Perhaps even an . . . unquenchable thirst. It began a few weeks ago when I was having one of my old-guy medical problems. I would be awakened in the night by sharp pains in my knees. Stabbing pains. So I did what a person does when blessed with the world’s finest health-care system: I went online.
Others, it turns out, suffer from the same mysterious affliction, and have found relief by rubbing Bengay—yes, good old Ultra Strength Bengay—into their knees at bedtime. So I did. It’s 10 percent menthol and has that unmistakable, ineradicable menthol smell. But I slept all night. No discernible side effects . . . none, that is, involving me. But I am afraid Ted the Cat has hit the skids. He can’t stay away from that menthol smell. If I rub Bengay into my knees, Ted wants to snuggle into my knees, too. If I am wearing pajama bottoms, he chews at the knees. If I shoo him off, he licks the hand that’s shooing him. If I wash my hands, he finds some trace of menthol on my wrists and licks them. Ted’s become a menthol junkie.
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I can’t be sure of this, but Ted seems to be coming up to me at the front door these days with a heightened eagerness. “Ted,” I say to him, “are you waitin’ for the man? He’s never early, he’s always late. First thing you learn is that you’ve always gotta wait.” I pick him up and give him a nuzzle. “Teddy Bear, you want me to give you sweet taste?” Ted responds with a squeal of suppressed semi-hysteria. “You gotta get clean, Ted. Maybe we should get you into rehab.”
So this is what’s become of our sweet old boy: a grizzled menthol addict. As Alan Arkin so memorably said in Little Miss Sunshine, “When you’re young, you’re crazy to do that stuff . . . When you’re old, you’re crazy not to do it.” But, then again, you remember how that old guy ended up.
What a misspent youth Ted missed out on. Forty years ago he could have been singing back-up with the Velvets. Nico would have stroked him. Lou Reed, pictured above in his more current, AARP period, would have dug him. Ted in shades. Ted at the Factory with Warhol. The road not taken.
Me, I have thoughts of these things, too. But at least I’m not a menthol junkie. Facebook, yes. Bengay, no. Maybe Ted’s got a good thing going, now that I think about it.