Riggo and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

For most of my life, a cat has been involved. Mostly Siamese cats. Siamese males act like dogs. They truly enjoy the warmth of human contact. They like to play. They greet you at the door. They are unique and have personality to burn. 

Our current cat is called Riggo. Riggo was the nickname of a famous National Football League running back from the seventies and eighties named John Riggins who was, also, unique and had plenty of personality. 

As a running back, Riggins was atypical in that he didn’t try to run around the opposing player. He ran over the opposing player. It wasn’t just the other team’s players, either. You could be a teammate, cheerleader, coach, family member, townhouse, heavy mining equipment or the Virgin Mary. 

It really didn’t matter. 

When it came to running with the football, John Riggins did not clown around so if you were in his way then it was incumbent upon you to do something about it. If you were a defensive player and Riggins was running at you then you needed to make, as it is referred to in the NFL, a “business decision.”

Business decisions involve a very brief cost/benefit analysis. In this context, they run something along the lines of, “Do I really want to try tackling this guy knowing full well I’ll end up as roadkill just to show I’m willing to lay it all on the line for my teammates thereby earning their undying respect and admiration? Or, are there future considerations upon which I might contemplate thus allowing me the latitude to determine a creative alternative such as getting the hell out of this guy’s way.”

This really is a moment of thorough personal analysis and deep reflection because, when it came to tackling John Riggins, those future considerations would inevitably include the following:

  1. Eating with utensils
  2. Keeping internal organs internal
  3. Not being dead all the time

We figured naming a big, boisterous, outgoing, fearless Siamese male cat “Riggo” would be highly appropriate.

We were wrong.

As it turned out, our Riggo was nothing like the football Riggo. Our Riggo is meek and mild. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. If he tried to hurt a fly then the fly would slap Riggo around because he has absolutely no self-preservation skills. None. 

When we first got him, Riggo was scared of….everything. Ten years later, he’s still scared of everything except people. Oh, he loves people now. This is because my wife and I are pathetic cat parents and cater to his every whim. 

Our Riggo loves playing fetch whenever we sit down to have dinner. I’m serious. He insists on playing fetch. We have to throw a little fuzzy ball down the stairs. Then, he scrambles down the stairs, picks up the fuzzy ball with his mouth, brings in back to us, drops it on the floor and stares at us until with throw the ball down the stairs.

This process repeats itself 15 to 20 times every day. My wife assures me playing fetch is something that Riggo finds cognitively and physically stimulating. I assure her there’s a fine line between “being cognitively and physically stimulated” and “being a moron.”

Cats do help us feel better about ourselves because we can always say, “I may have destroyed my personal life, lost all my friends and forfeited any chance for a promotion but I never fell down the stairs chasing a fuzzy ball and pick it up with my teeth. At least, not while sober.”

One day, we thought he might enjoy watching something called “Cat TV.” Cat TV features tranquil nature scenes where birds and other small animals come and go. Your cat is supposed to find this very calming. 

So, we turned on Cat TV to let him enjoy some serene television. 

Riggo looked at the TV, saw a bird on the screen and proceeded to go, and I’m being mild here, nucking futs. The cat who’s afraid of bugs attacked a 50″ television.

He jumped off the couch, sprinted towards the TV and flew, headfirst, into the TV. He smashed his face on the TV screen, bounced off it and crashed onto the floor.

He looked around for a moment with a facial expression that said something along the lines of, “Huh?”

Remember those old Road Runner cartoons where Wile E. Coyote kept crashing into a brick wall whenever he tried to catch Road Runner?

Well, that was Riggo.

Now, when we first got Riggo, I don’t remember any of the medical certificates saying, “Potential MENSA-candidate.” He has a walnut-sized brain. I understand that.

But, I would think he’d have gained a little wisdom what with crashing into a television to get a bird who really wasn’t IN the television. 

However, even though he’d clearly established there was no actual bird behind the TV screen, Riggo backed up, got another running start, launched himself, headfirst, towards the TV, smashed his face on the screen, bounced off and crashed on the floor. 


Remember those old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons where Bullwinkle kept trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat but kept screwing it up? But, he kept trying and would always say, “This time for sure,” right before he’d screw it up again and pull a rhino out of his hat instead of a rabbit?

Well, that was Riggo.

In his infinite struggle against reality, he took another stab at it before I turned the TV off which really confused the hell out of him because he couldn’t figure out where the bird went. 

My wife and I became suspicious. We checked the liquor cabinet just to make sure he wasn’t drunk. We didn’t see any of our prescriptions missing.  So, we figured the needle must have been stuck on “dumb” and wrote it off. 

Later that day, we opened the desk drawer where we keep his toys and noticed an entire bag of catnip was missing. 

This wasn’t just your cheap Mexican-Dirt-Weed catnip. This was some serious high-octane, Bob-Marley-Type ganja catnip. 

After discovering the catnip was missing, we casually asked him if might have taken it by accident.

Riggo replied, “Uh….catnip? Ummmm. What’s catnip? Is that, uh, like….uh, never heard of, whoa, anyth.., ‘cuz I wouldn’ta known, like, huh? I don’ unnerstand, who, ME? Take the, uh, can’t remember….ummm, I gotta go to, uh, the, uh, can you turn on Cat TV again?”

Riggo proceeded to go to the basement for about 20 minutes. When he came back,  he was looking a little wobbly and unfocused.

We asked him what he had been up to. 

“Oh, yeah, uh, nothing. Haven’t, err, done, like, so, like, whoa, heh-heh, are the floorboards moving? This…I like Chinese food, and, so, why is France so far away? I think the new iPhone cameras suck. So, if you’re traveling the speed of light and you turn the headlights on then do you see them? I’ve always wondered about that and, oh look, a chicken.”

And, he stumbled off. 

Our cat has been smoking catnip.  

He’s a niphead.

It was a shocking discovery but explained some of his recent behavior.

The last few nights, he’d been asking us to go to McDonalds and get him 3 or 4 cheeseburgers because he’s always hungry after dinner.

One time, after we said no to the cheeseburger idea, he tried to steal my phone and order from Grub Hub.

We couldn’t help but notice he’s been repeatedly listening to a vinyl copy of “Dark Side of the Moon.”  It has the album cover that opens up and in the middle we found some catnip seeds. Plus, he always gets startled when the alarm clock goes off on that one song even though he’s listened to the record 400 times by now.

We just found a lighter, rolling papers and some of his catnip stash hidden under his cat box. There was a little kitty-bong behind a couple books. One book was “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The other book was “Alice in Wonderland.” Let’s face it, you’ve got to be high-as-a-kite in order to read either of those books. 

Smoking all the catnip has killed his taste buds. We spotted some empty Keystone Light beer cans mixed in the trash along with a big half-full bottle of a Carlo Rossi cabernet that smelt like a cross between a sewage treatment plant and a couple of month-old dead bodies.

Then, there were the Altoids.  And, the Visine.  And, the rolled up towel to keep the catnip smoke from seeping out from the crack between the floor and the bottom of the bathroom door.

We know it’s bad because we saw a spiral notebook where he tried writing some poetry. The first line said, “There once was a cat from Nantucket.”  Everything else was in ashes probably because the catnip joint he was smoking fell out of his mouth, landed on the notebook and set it on fire.

So, we decided to have a little discussion with the young man and have him explain himself.  

All he said to us was,  “Uh, whoa….dunno where all, of, you know….this stuff, uhnnn, came from on accounta this is, like, out there…. and, uh, yeah, no, um, kinda like, you know, out there….but, in a tubular kinda way….uh, whoa, this ceiling is completely, like, outta hand.  So, yeah, it’s like, pfffffffffft, gotta….I think I gotta lie down and, for, uhhhhh, can you make me some home fries?….[pause]…wait…..what was the question?”

We’re not sure how to handle this.

We could ground him but he’s an indoor cat so that won’t accomplish much.

We sent him to bed without his dinner but he was stoned to the gills and, on accounta his taste buds were shot, he ate some cardboard out of the recycling bin and did not even notice.

Plus, he was so blotto that it took him all night just to find his bed. Once he did find it, he needed to jump to get on the bed because his bed is our bed.

Due, I’m sure, to his condition, he totally misjudged the jump.  His first attempt was well short of the mark and he crashed, head first, into the side of the bed and belly-flopped onto the floor.

For his next attempt, he got a running start and, perhaps, over-compensated just a bit because, instead of landing on the bed, he went flying over the bed and crash landed on my wife’s vanity which is about 10 feet from the bed.

He managed to crack the mirror, smash about 20 bottles of very high-class perfume, cave in the top of the vanity and break the chair. I can’t quite describe the sound this made but think about that large chandelier in the Commodore Hotel in Vegas. It has about 2,500,000 crystals, is about 500,000 cubic feet in size and weighs, I dunno, a few thousand pounds. Now steal it, take it up to the top of the Sears Tower (you may need to take it up the stairs depending on the size of the elevator) and drop it off the side of the building. 

Think about the sound it’ll make when it hits the pavement. THAT was the sound the vanity made after Riggo flew into it. 

After hearing that noise, a non-stoned cat would have panicked and, out of sheer terror, sprinted out of the room. Riggo, instead, surveyed the damage while still on his back and said, “Cool. Can we watch ‘Beavis and Butthead?'” Then he grabbed a perfume bottle and started drinking from it. 

I just looked at him for a minute and finally asked, “Who wants nachos?”

Hey, I was in high school once. 

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