RIP The Bear (1995-2016)

2016 has claimed another hero. The Bear was the grand old man of multiple books and blogs by self-described “cat man” Tom Cox. We had read his book Under the Paw in one of its earliest editions back in 2008 – you can read our brief review here. In the book, The Bear immediately came to the forefront even in a household with many cats. He was already an old cat whose body had a scars of one who lived life hard but survived to tell it. And those sad, sorrowful eyes spoke volumes. These traits have earned The Bear a loyal following on his Twitter feed @MYSADCAT. Posts often pictured a picture of The Bear with his sad eyes and snarky quotes about music or current events. As The Bear survived year after year passing the milestone of 20 in 2015, he seemed indestructible.

But this is 2016, the year that felled Fidel Castro, along with a great many of our musical heroes and feline friends. We read the sad news on Tom Cox’s blog, where he pays tribute to his kind friend of so many years. With the recent loss of our beloved Luna, we at CatSynth can sympathize. We send our heartfelt condolences to Tom Cox and to the rest of his human and feline family.

Under The Paw

Last week I finished reading Tom Cox’s Under the Paw: Confessions of a Cat Man.

Both the book and his blog The Little Cat Diaries chronicle his life as a “cat man.” There is undeniably a love of cats expressed in this book, but without being overly maudlin, or overly cuddly. The more frustrating or ridiculous moments of living with cats are not hidden. There are some very funny stories, some quite familiar to anyone who has lived with a cat, and also some very poignant and sad moments, such as the story of his youthful companion Monty. Between chapters, I often flipped back to the inside cover, which featured photos of each of the cats in his life, and comparing the images to the stories. Did the image of “The Bear” fit with his narrative, for example?

As a fellow “cat man” (I suppose there is no avoiding that label when you write a site about music and cats), there is certainly a lot in common, but also quite a contrast. While Tom Cox and his wife Dee live with six cats, there is only one cat here at CatSynth. Tom moved with his cats from London back to rural and small-town England, while I recently made the transition from a smaller coastal town to downtown San Francisco. One cat man has a passion for golf, another for modern art, photography and mathematics. But music is a common theme. And black cats (the Cox household boasts three black felines).

I found myself reading Under the Paw while getting some maintenance on my car in one of the outer neighborhoods of the city. A man came in with a large but friendly dog who did what large but friendly dogs are wont to do, namely try to become best friends with everyone sitting and waiting and systematically being told that they had a “burnt out headlight that needed to be replaced.” (What are the chances that three cars in a row would all have burnt out headlights?) After the man asked if I wasn’t fond of dogs, I showed him the cover of the book I was reading. “Hmmm, Confessions of a Cat Man…”, he mused. There was no accusation in his voice, just curiosity, and it turned into brief but friendly conversation between two people on opposite sides of the “pet divide.” Actually, the conversation was mostly just my describing the book, which I highly recommend…