Wednesday, July 29, 2009


No, The Leopard isn't the sort to go on and on about their beloved pet. In fact, I find it rather annoying when people do. Still, in the interest of full disclosure, I do love my cat, Casey.

I picked up Casey years ago after seeing her on one of those segments on a local TV newscast where they feature unwanted pets at the ASPCA. When I saw this tiny kitten, looking so incredibly cute n' cuddly, I called the TV station and was directed to a shelter. There I saw her for the first time in the flesh (or fur). She was frantically trying to stick her little fuzzy head through the bars of her cage. I liked her radical spirit.

Cut to 11 years later. The unhappy relationship I was in at the time I adopted Casey was long over, but Casey was still my responsibility. By now things had changed radically: I no longer had a lifestyle that could include a feisty, curmudgeonly older cat.

Despite postings on Craigslist, Facebook and other assorted social networks, my earnest attempts to find her a home brought no success.
Running out of options, I made a last attempt to ask close relatives to take her in. But still, no one seemed to have any extra space for my longtime companion.

And so, with a heavy heart, I decided to take her to a local shelter. Although I expected the worst, the dedicated staff actually went out of their way to assure me that a healthy cat like Casey would most likely find a home. This made me feel a little less guilty.

According to the paperwork, I was"surrendering" my cat to the facility.

I felt more like I was giving up a close friend.

Monday, July 27, 2009

She's Not Depressed, She's Drunk

The Leopard decided to go for cocktails the other night at the creatively grungy Art Bar, a notorious spot in the West Village known for its dank innards, worn furniture, and 1000-year-old beer smell.

Still, the place has its earthy pleasures. As we settled in at the bar for a bit of light conversation, in came a blond middle-aged woman who sat one stool away. I could see her heavily made up face clearly over my friend’s shoulder. She began to make jittery movements like a junkie and looked increasingly anxious. She greeted the bartender broadly, and seemed to want to engage her in conversation, but the server stoically declined to socialize and dutifully poured her a drink.

After gulping down her straight vodka, she grinned at me a few times in a creepy way. I didn’t want to encourage her so I looked away. A few minutes later, she began to quietly sob. Pretty soon, the sobs became moans, and then the moans became full-out bawling, complete with running tears and streaking mascara.

My partner and I tried at first to ignore this noisy, pathetic spectacle but she went on and on, obviously vying for attention. Soon the bartender intervened in a sympathetic yet stern tone, “You’re disturbing our customers. Please leave. Look, Your drink is on me." The woman was so overcome with emotion she couldn’t speak, so she simply scooped up her things and left.

Whenever I walk past that place, I always wonder. What was she crying about? A lost lover? A tragedy in her family? Her own alcoholism? Most likely, I’ll never know.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chocolate Genius

Chocolate Genius is the tongue-in-cheek moniker of the excellent singer songwriter Marc Anthony Thompson. The Leopard first heard him on a PBS music show singing his heartbreaking tune, “My Mom”, an emotional tome about dealing with a parent’s descent into senility.
Thompson is an imposing figure: flaring Basquiat-like tendrils sprouting from his head, the ever present dark suglasses, and a low, darkly emotional drawl. As Chocolate Genius, Thompson has recorded infrequently. But his three mainstream albums, Black Music (1998), God Music (2001), and Black Yankee Rock (2005) are all inspired gems.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Natural Ass

Living in a wonderful honeycomb of a city like Manhattan, The Leopard can't help but occasionally witness some strange things.

I was standing outside my office chatting with coworkers one warm summer afternoon last week when we all witnessed what is a fairly familiar sight in these parts: a young woman, possibly homeless, possibly schizophrenic, walking past us at a brisk pace down the sidewalk of our building raving aloud and screaming slurred obscenities. This alone wouldn't have necessarily interrupted our socializing, until, out of the corner of our eyes, this young girl of perhaps 25 to 35 began to strip.

Off went her blouse, which revealed a crisp white bra beneath (not what you'd expect a homeless person to own) and then moments later, while still on a determined path, off went her maroon skirt, under which there was no crisp anything.

The effect of this woman's dark brown bottom in full view,
in the unusually bright sun in the middle of the afternoon, was profoundly disconcerting, even dream-like, in contrast to the fully clothed surrounding hordes of business people, taxis, and tourists. People stopped whatever conversations they were having on their cellphones to gawk or report, and the door man in front of a ritzy hotel where she finally paused to continue her rant almost swallowed his taxi whistle. Parents covered the eyes of children, and traffic almost came to a violent halt.

And all over a natural ass.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Michael, My brother

The first record The Leopard ever bought with my own money was a 45, The Love You Save by The Jackson 5. In my world, everyone I knew loved the Jackson Five. When we saw these young, good looking, talented kids on the Ed Sullivan Show, we saw ourselves. My friends, cousins--everyone I knew had a record or two somewhere in their house, even if it was just a cut out cardboard record printed on the back of a Post Sugar Crisp cereal box.

It wasn’t even something anyone discussed. The five boys from Gary, Indiana were like family to us. I remember our school used to receive catalogs from Scholastic, and the first book I ever owned was a little paperback about the Jackson 5 where they were pictured riding on mini bikes around their house. I wanted to be Michael Jackson. What could be better than to sing cool songs with your 4 brothers, dance on Soul Train, wear groovy threads and ride around on little motorbikes?

As I (and The Jacksons) got older, I kind of lost touch with what they were doing. Michael and his brothers dropped the “5” part of their name, and started to have more adult-sounding hits like “Dancing Machine” and “Can You Feel it”. Then things got quiet for awhile, and suddenly, out of nowhere, Michael came out with the album Off The Wall and everything changed. Produced by Quincy Jones, the music on Off The Wall sounded fresher than anything else that year.
Of course, by the time of Thriller, Michael had completely reinvented himself and was in a class all his own. There have been many child entertainers over the years, (think Donny Osmond) but Michael was one of the very, very, few that lived up to his earlier potential.

He also showed a remarkable ease with technology, creating not only cutting edge sounds, but brilliant visuals, in the form of videos, to go with his groundbreaking music. Michael surpassed everyone’s expectations of him, as a dancer, songwriter, musician. In retrospect, it almost seems fitting that he would eventually simply burn out like a light. But what a bright light it was.