Archive for March, 2013

Jonesy’s First All Nighter – Part 1

Peter Elbling's The Vinégar Jonesy Chronicles



Peter Elbling is Sour Mr. VinégarMr. V looking for JonesyA month after the crow incident, I called Jonesy in at the usual time but he didn’t respond.  I waited ten minutes and called him again.  Still no answer.  Puzzled, I walked around the block calling his name.  Nothing.  I tried to think lightly of it but dark thoughts kept slipping into my mind.  Was he hurt somewhere?  Perhaps he had unwittingly strayed out of his territory and had been unable to find his way back.  But his name and address were written on his collar!  So if he was found by a Good Samaritan that person would know where to bring him.  But the collar was the breakaway type in case he caught himself on a limb while climbing a tree so if the collar had come off and he had been found than the Good Samaritan wouldn’t know where to bring him.  But what if they weren’t a Good Samaritan?  What if they were a catnapper?

Mr. Vinegar's Catastrophe.  Catnapper.They could have ripped off the collar and driven to San Francisco or Chicago by now.  He could be anywhere!  I got into my car and drove around in increasingly wider circles calling JONESY!  JONESY!  The only answer I received was from some old bat who shouted at me to be quiet.  A half hour later, in a cold sweat, I climbed the stairs back to my apartment filled with guilt, fear, and remorse.  How could I have let him out?  He was just a kitten!  I didn’t deserve to have a pet.  If he came back I would… I would give him to someone more deserving.  I barely slept all night.






Jonesy's thinking. Mr. Vinégar blog. Peter Elbling.Freeeeedom!  Freeeedom!  I had heard the word a lot but I had no idea what it meant until that night!  How can anyone know what that word means unless they’ve been restrained and constrained and destrained and all the other types of strained?  I know my mother was an alley cat and I guess my father was too because I crave the night.  I’ve heard of cats who never go outside day or night.  There are some who even run away from an open door!   D’ya know what Prince and I call them?  Pussies!

How can a cat not love staying out at night?  There’s hardly any traffic, even less people, and the dogs are all locked up!   Sure there’s possums and rats and mice and squirrels but that’s nothing.  The night is ours.  I’d been planning on staying out all night for a while now but I needed a push.  Prince gave it to me.

After the thing with the crow we became buddies.  I knew his rep.  I mean, who didn’t?  There wasn’t a cat in the neighborhood that Prince hadn’t scarred.  There was a rumor that he had killed the kittens of his girlfriend because they weren’t his, but that’s street talk and you can’t believe everything you hear on the street.  But Prince was tough there was no doubt about that, which was why I always got embarrassed whenever we were kicking back and suddenly Mr. V started calling, Jone-zee!  Jone-zee!  It was humiliating!  I can’t help it!  I mumbled as I left.  Prince looked at me then bent down and licked himself.  I’d never been so miserable in all my life!  That’s when I made up my mind I was gonna do something about it.

So the next night just before Mr. V called me I said, Why don’t we do something? Prince looked at me real casual.  He didn’t say anything, he didn’t have to.  That was one of the great things about him.  You just knew right away what he was thinking.  He stood up, stretched his front legs and slipped off.  I was right behind him.

We cruised down the block past my boundary, crossed the street, turned the corner, went two blocks, and came to a big street.  It was the biggest street I had ever seen.  I stopped.  I had never been this far from home before.  Prince said, Stick with me.  He waited until a car had gone by and then said Now!  We raced across the street.  Okay?  He said when we got to the other side.  I nodded.  My heart was pounding.  But I was stoked.  We went down another block or so until we came to this old house that was surrounded by bushes and trees and stuff.  I could smell cat piss everywhere.   There was a hole in the fence in front of us.  Prince squeezed through.  I looked around half hoping Mr. V might be calling me but if he was, he was too far away for me to hear.  I took a deep breath and followed Prince through the hole….(to be continued)


To read about the Crow incident click HERE.

If you can’t remember who Prince is, click HERE to read the blog where Prince is introduced.

To read about when Prince and Jonesy first met click HERE.

The Crow

Peter Elbling's The Vinégar Jonesy Chronicles



Peter Elbling is Sour Mr. VinégarJonesy on the veranda railingJonesy had been going out by himself for about a month when the incident with the crows occurred. I usually let him out as soon as I awoke and always left bowls of food and water on the porch before I went to work. Several times as I left, I saw Jonesy sitting on the veranda railing eyeing the crows that sometimes swooped down from the roof just out of his reach.

Then they would inevitably perch on a nearby telephone line and mock him with their familiar Caw! Caw! Caw! Once or twice I heard Jonesy making a strange throaty cooing sound, but whether he thought a bird might mistake the sound for one of their own or if he did it out of sheer frustration I do not know but I empathized with him.

Ms. Graben at Maps and Globes often made a similar cawing laugh when I presented my ideas at our weekly meeting, and I often found myself making strange noises in the back of my throat in lieu of my reaching out and throttling her.

When I returned in the evening Jonesy was always hungry and so I fed him again. Despite his ravenous appetite he grew quite slowly. It wasn’t till I returned home unexpectedly one morning that I understood the reason for the slow rate of Jonesy’s growth.

Walking up the back stairs I heard a terrible cawing and screeching. I raced round the corner and had to fight my way through several vicious shrieking crows. Swatting them away I saw Jonesy, all four pounds of him, standing defiantly by his bowls of food. He had a feather in his mouth. The crows had obviously been helping themselves to his food which the poor little fellow was desperately trying to protect. From then on I made sure that he ate before I left and he very quickly gained the right weight for his age.

Jonesy wants to talk so bad he’s salivating all over the couch….


Jonesy's thinking. Mr. Vinégar blog. Peter Elbling.As usual Mr. V got it all wrong! Yes, the crows were stealing my food but I was letting them! I wanted them to get so comfortable that they’d forget all about me and then BANG! I’d pounce! As it is, one of them will be peeing in their pants for years to come (if they had pants). They’d been after me from the first time Mr. V let me out by myself. One day I was giving myself a back rub in the backyard when I saw the biggest nastiest crow up in the tree above me.

The biggest, nastest crow smallHe was acting like he wasn’t interested when suddenly he flew down with his claws outstretched towards my belly. I twisted around and tried to get out of the way but I wouldn’t have made it if Prince had not come flying out of nowhere and nearly taken the crow’s head off. You all right? Prince asked. I nodded. Prince walked off but just him saying that to me made my day! I promised myself I would get that crow and make Prince proud.

So when the crows first started taking my food I hung back, figuring I would wait a while. The morning Mr. V’s talking about I was hiding around the corner waiting till the crows had stuffed themselves. Then I charged out and before they could fly away I grabbed one of their wings. The crow screamed and cawed but I wouldn’t let go. It was great! I was so into it I didn’t hear Mr. V until I saw him come running around the corner swatting his arms like he was being attacked! For a split second I lost my concentration, the crow wrenched away and I was left with a mouth full of feathers. But the next time…You better believe the NEXT time I’ll get him.


If you can’t remember who Prince is, click HERE to read the blog where Prince is introduced.

If you want to read about the time when Prince and Jonesy first met click HERE.


The Diet and the Tree

Peter Elbling's The Vinégar Jonesy Chronicles



Peter Elbling is Sour Mr. Vinégar


Ms. Graben eating.Ms. Graben is on a new diet this month. It’s her third this year. I don’t know what this one entails but by her own admission she has so far dabbled with the Atkins diet, the Baby Food diet, the Blood Type diet, the Tapeworm diet – I shudder at the thought, The Cabbage Soup diet, the Grapefruit diet, the Maple Syrup diet – is that even possible? The Carbohydrate Addict’s diet, the Eat More Weigh Less diet, the Donate Your Duplicate Organs Diet (a kidney weighs 3 pounds). – The No Crave Diet, the South Beach Diet, and finally, the Beer and Ice Cream Diet – which, I believe, she has never left.

Ms. Gupta expanding her sari before she eats.

Ms. Gupta expanding her sari before she eats.

It’s my thighs, she moans. They keep getting bigger. Why don’t you try eating less? I suggested at lunch one day. All the women laughed scornfully. We diet because of men, Ms. Gupta said, shoveling another helping of curry into her mouth. You want us to have hourglass figures, Ms. Snickety sniffed. I don’t want anything of the sort, I said. I just wish I didn’t have to listen to this insane whining all day long. (Since the dismantling of our cubicles we can now hear one another breathing as well as any number of other bodily functions.)

Oh, Mr. Vinegar, you’re such a party pooper, Ms. Graben said. You want us to have hourglass figures, don’t you Mr. Chang? Is that where the bosom sticks out one way and the bottom sticks out another? Replied Mr. Chang. It looks like it would hurt. This was far too graphic for Ms. Snickety who quickly swallowed several spoonfuls of her carrot, bean and thistle soup.

In my culture, said Ms. Gupta, we celebrate a woman’s figure regardless of its shape or size. There was a strained silence. In the past six months Ms. Gupta had been packing on the pounds at such an alarming rate that I feared she might burst.

Mr. Karl thinking about squirrel foodMr. Karl's trail mix


How do you feel about it Mr. Karl? Mr. Chang asked. Mr. Karl was staring at the half-eaten bowl of trail mix in front of him. I can’t feel a Goddamn thing, he replied. My doctor said my blood pressure’s too high and he’s got me eating squirrel food three times a day. I don’t know how the little buggers survive.



Ms. Graben drinkingMs. Graben downing a shot.We sat silently for a moment and then Ms. Graben said, I have to eat every two hours because I have diabetes. She reached for her little flask and took a long healthy sip. And what’s that for? I said. To help me forget that I have it, she replied.

Ms. Gupta asked, What are you eating, Mr. Vinégar? – wiping some rice from her chin. I’m eating a bread, cheese and tomato sandwich, I replied. Whoo! Big spender, Ms. Graben said. Ms. Snickety giggled and snorted a thistle up her nose, which led to a lot of coughing and choking and back slapping before she regained her natural color. Time to go back to work, Mr. Karl said.

Large woman stallAs we left the conference room, Mr. Chang said, About your thighs, Ms. Graben. Have you tried wearing bigger pants? That’s what I do. Ms. Graben fled into the rest room and that was the end of our lunch hour.

I should mention that Ms. Snickety insisted that Mr. Chang apologize to Ms. Graben, but Mr. Chang inadvertently made things worse when he tried to wipe the remaining thistle off of Ms. Snickety’s nose with his dirty napkin.

Mr. Chang spent the rest of the day in the stock room wondering what had just happened.



I guess I better give Jonesy his turn now…


Jonesy's thinking. Mr. Vinégar blog. Peter Elbling.Mr. V on stairsThere’s this tree across the road that I like to climb. I sit at the top and watch the people walking back and forth underneath. It’s very cool because they don’t know I’m there. 

One night I was up there and it was about the time when Mr.V usually calls me to come in. And I thought, I wonder if he loves me as much as he says he does. So before he could call me, I called him – thirty seconds of the longest saddest howls you’ve ever heard. They were so like, sad, I nearly made myself cry.

Then the door swung open and there stood Mr. V in his robe. I couldn’t tell if he was upset or pissed. So I howled even louder. He rushed down the stairs tripping over himself and ran across the street to the tree. The first thing he said when he got there was, Shhhh! For God’s sake! You’ll wake the neighbors! So that’s it, I thought, You’re more worried about the neighbors than you are about me! So naturally, I double tripled the yowling.


The tree

Oh my god! You should have seen him. He leapt up and down and waved his arms, and made promises – I could’ve had anything I wanted at that moment – and all the time frantically looking around in case one the dreaded neighbors came out. It was so funny. Then he pointed to different branches telling me the best way to get down, like I didn’t know.

I pretended to try and follow his directions but then I stopped as if I was scared. He tried to climb the tree! It was like an elephant trying to climb a bar stool.  He slipped and scraped his knee. I thought, Well, I guess he is trying to get me down so when he wasn’t looking I ran down the tree, rubbed against his legs, and dashed up the steps and into the apartment. I could hear him thumping behind me cursing under his breath. I ran under the bed and stayed there for the rest of the night.

I don’t do this sort of thing very often but every now and again it’s necessary to make sure everyone knows who’s really in charge.



Mr. Vinégar + Bath + Jonesy = Disaster!

Peter Elbling's The Vinégar Jonesy Chronicles



Peter Elbling Mr. Vinégar BlogBy four months, Jonesy had matured from a six-week-old kitten into an irrepressible eight year old.  I had been forced to establish certain rules.  No leaping on my thighs with outstretched claws.  No racing across my computer keyboard while I was working, and definitely no staring at me while I sat on the toilet.  But his unflagging energy and curiosity I could not contain, especially when it came to the dining room table.

Jonesy Being Naughty

Click on the play button to see Jonesy being naughty.

Jonesy in tree in Mr. Vinegars' CatastropheSo one morning, I carried him down the backstairs into the enclosed yard – and let him go.  He immediately climbed the large avocado tree, raced up and down the steps, and worried all the plants.  When, after ten minutes I picked him up to take him upstairs, he howled as if I was strangling him.

Mr. Vinégar's backyard Mr. Vinégar's Catastrophe


I took him downstairs every day for longer and longer periods until he knew the backyard intimately.  Then when I felt he was ready, I opened the door and let him go.  After an hour I called him and thanks to Mr. Pavlov, he came bounding up the stairs. 

From then on I let him out from morning till night.  I know of people who have trained their cats to swim, jump through hoops, and even count to ten but I don’t believe cats should be submitted to that sort of humiliation.  As long as he comes when I call him I’m perfectly satisfied.


Ok…it looks like Jonesy is especially anxious to tell his side of the story…


Jonesy's thinking. Mr. Vinégar blog. Peter Elbling.I’ll always remember that first day I went into the garden by myself.  It was great! I climbed the tree, chased leaves, and rolled around in the sun.  From then on I spent as much time as I could in the garden.  But I noticed that Mr. V didn’t mention what happened when he tried to teach me how to swim.  First he showed me pictures of cats swimming.  He kept saying,  See Jonesy you can do that.  The next time he had a bath he called me in. 

Jonesy Bathtime Mr. Vinegar's CatastropheMr. V was lying in the bath, and being naturally curious I stood on the edge.  Then I bravely stuck my foot in the water.  Good boy Jonesy, said Mr. V.  This went on for a week or two.  Then he laid down in the water and told me to walk across his chest.  Eazy Peezy, I thought.  And so I did.  But then he had to push me before I was ready…

Jonesy in bath Mr. Vinegar's CatastropheThe next time I was sitting on his chest he lowered himself into the bath so that the water ran over him and onto me.  I was so surprised that I tried to leap out of the tub.  I slipped, fell off his stomach, and down into his nether parts.  Naturally I stuck my claws out to get a grip.  The next thing I knew I was flying across the bathroom and he was leaping cursing and screaming and using language I’ve never heard before or since.  That was the end of the swimming lessons.  And all the other lessons, too

Pavlov's Cat Mr. Vinegar's CatastropheIt’s funny that Mr. V thought he was training me.  Pavlov Shmavlov, gimme a break.  I was training him!

And it was easy as fish pie to train him.  Here’s what I did:

It used to be that when I meowed outside the door, he’d open it and I’d run to the food bowl.  But it was frustrating waiting for him to clean the plate, open the can, and pour the food.  So instead of meowing, I howled.  That changed things.  Now he got the food ready before I came in the door.  After a couple of weeks of that I thought, he’s ready for step three.  So I began to meow as I came up the stairs.  I couldn’t have planned it better.  Now when I arrive, the door is already open and the food is waiting for me on my plate.  He learns quickly.  Even better, I don’t have to give him a treat. 

To see another video of Jonesy doing crazy things see the post “The First Month.


The Burning Bed


Peter Elbling Mr. Vinégar BlogI vividly remember the day I presented one of my greatest creations to my co-workers at Globes and Maps Inc.  Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out quite the way I had anticipated.   It had been some time since I had been “Employee of the Month” and the idea that Mr. Chang had received the award for two months running simply for making a list of all the new countries (33) that had formed in the past twenty years had spurred me into action.

I had asked my co-workers to gather in the break room and when I arrived everyone was already there except for Ms. Snickety.   I placed the large white comforter I had brought with me onto the bed, which Mr. Karl used for his after lunch cat naps.

Mr. Vinegar's new inventionSomeone’s scribbled on it, Ms. Graben remarked.   It’s not scribble, I replied, it’s a map of Africa.   That Ms. Graben couldn’t recognize a map despite the fact that she had worked for Globes and Maps for twenty years explained why Globes and Maps was in the trouble it was.  Are we sending beds to Africa?  Mr. Chang asked.  No, we’re not.   I said, trying to maintain a cheerful demeanor.   Shall I wait for Ms. Snickety?  I asked Mr. Karl.  No, he said.  Hurry up, I’ve got things to do.



Mr. Vinegar's inventionMr. Chang in Mr. Vinegar's catastropheI plugged the electric comforter into the socket.  Oh, I love those, they’re so snuggly, Ms. Graben shrieked.  May I have a volunteer?  I asked.   Me! Me! said Mr. Chang.   All right, Mr. Chang, please get under the comforter.  He took off his shoes revealing two large pink toes protruding through his white socks, and got under the comforter.

What we have here, I continued, appears to be an ordinary electric blanket.  But as you’ve all noticed there is a map of Africa on it.  Now will someone please tell me the hottest part of Africa?  Ms. Gupta in Mr. Vinegar's catastropheDon’t you know?  asked Ms. Gupta.  Of course I know, I replied.  I want — The Sahara desert!  Mr. Karl snapped.  Correct, I said.  And so when someone turns the electric blanket on, – Mr. Vinegar's new inventionhere I pressed the button – the Sahara desert turns red! I finished off triumphantly.   All the nights I had spent designing and redesigning were finally paying off as that section of the comforter began to glow a deep, sensual fiery throbbing red.

Or they would have paid off had Ms. Snickety not chosen to enter the break room at that moment.  Seeing Mr. Chang lying beneath what appeared to her to be a burning blanket, she threw her hot coffee onto the blanket before anyone could stop her.   The ensuing sparks, smoke, and sputterings not only sent everyone scurrying from the room, but also set off the sprinklers which in turn alerted the fire department.


Mr. Vinegar and Ms. SnicketyThe rest of the day was shot – as was my presentation.  I was willing to forget the incident but others were not so forgiving.  Ms. Snickety refused to apologize for her actions, Mr. Karl blamed me for being unable to take his customary cat nap, and Mr. Chang pinned a photo of his scorched toes on the bulletin board to remind everyone how he had “taken one for the team.”



I left early and was greatly relieved to find Jonesy waiting for me when I got home.


As always, Jonesy wants to chime in…


Jonesy's thinking. Mr. Vinégar blog. Peter Elbling.Mr. V was so upset when he came home from work today that he left the front door open.   That made me super stoked because I finally got to see what was going on outside.   I had only been looking out the screen door for a minute when the most ginormous cat I had ever seen came over the top of the stairs and swaggered right up to me.

 Mr. Vinegar Jonesy and Prince

I hadn’t seen another cat since the shelter and I got so excited I stood on my hind legs and smacked the door just to say hi.   Was that ever a mistake!  His eyes narrowed to dark cold slits, his back arched up, and he growled, Do that again and I’ll rip your gonads out.   I was so startled I forgot to tell him I didn’t have any.   As it was I lost my balance and fell down.   By the time I got up again he was gone.   I must admit he scared me, but I was more lonely than scared, and I was afraid he wouldn’t come back.


But he did.  The next day!  I was sitting behind the screen door dying to go outside when he appeared again.  This time I just sat there.  He came right up to me and said, You owe me!  You don’t know how lucky you are to be here.  If it weren’t for me Mr. V wouldn’t have taken a cat in the first place.  I didn’t know what he was talking about so I didn’t say anything.  He looked into my eyes and said, Are you stupid?  I didn’t know what to answer.  He slapped the door with his paw and gave a low growl that made my hair stand on end.  But at the same time I was excited.  Then Mr. V came running in and shooed Prince away.  But that wasn’t the end of Prince by a long shot.

(To find out what Prince was talking about see the blog “Beginnings“)