On the fringes

On the fringes

If you’re a cinnamon roll, the center is the most important part.

If you’re a human or a cat or a carousel, you’d be wise to hug the fringes.

Whether you’re sixteen or sixty-seven, it’s hard to shake a certain centripetal yearning. We want so badly to be hurtled to the core of the earth, or at least our personal planets. Even the most introverted among us (witness me wildly waving my arm in the air) have it in our muddled heads that the middle is where it matters, that the pecan at the center of the pie is the prettiest, that the middle of the truffle is the sweet, sweet heart of the matter.

We want to be ensconced in the inner circle, safe from wanting and wandering and the prickly whispers that ask, from the inside, if we’re not all that important after all.

We forget that the center of the bagel is a gasping void. (This is why bialys are superior, but that’s a discussion for another day.)
We forget that the middle of the carousel is a pole that the ponies properly ignore.
We forget that the action may happen in the pit, but the panache breaks loose at the fringes.

As in any community of creatures, there are plenty of center-stage scene-stealers at Tabby’s Place.

Elliot makes his living whirling at the waxy center of the Suite B-hive, a king bee among besotted and/or beleaguered neighbors, depending on the day and the dose of madness in his morning meditations. (“Today…I shall be a friend to all people. Today…I AM FIRE. I AM DEATH. Today…I shall read selections of Tolstoy aloud in the solarium WHILE BRINGING BOTH WAR AND PEACE TO ALL PEOPLE.”)

Alex is the rubber-band ball bouncing haplessly down the runway of Suite C. Tightly woven, loosely attached to sanity, assured of his location (The Place Where All Eyes Are), cosmopolitan and debonair, Alex is always in style, always on top, always the hub of the pinwheel.

Spaghetti is the entree everyone awaits, the main event, the one-man band who plays the flute and the the washboard and the song of strong personality all the live-long day and night. Spaghetti is the sauce-spattered pocket on the T-shirt of Suite FIV, unignorable, unironic, unable to be ignored.

They are the fat cats, the decision makers, the world turners and vibe shifters and schedule shakers.

They get the attention. They get the glory. They get the first dishes of fish mush at 4:00pm sharp, if only because they yell the loudest and command the floor and need to be acknowledged before they will stop sharing their vast “knowledge” in the form of wailing whimpers and extreme acrobatics and hastily-concocted hostage situations (Oscar: “I will permit you to evacuate Elijah‘s skull from my claws if you deliver a suitcase full of liverwurst.”)

But they don’t “get it,” when it comes to where it’s at.

For that, we need to look to the fringes.

As the story goes, in society and cat sanctuaries and all the ragamuffin realms where patchwork persons collect, we need to worry about the people “on the fringes.” They’re the forgotten ones, the fading ones, the hungry and hopeless, background blur-faces no better than their begging-bowls. It’s up to the superstars at the center to coddle and patronize the fringe folk, in the hopes that maybe, someday, they, too will know life at the belly button of the world.

But the fringe folk engage in no such navel-gazing.
They know the truth of shag haircuts, and handmade blankets, and the Gravitron, and the gravity of love itself: the fringes are precisely where the panache happens.

What would a brown suede jacket be, without a marching band of fringe?

Why would we bother with a pan of brownies, if not for the crustalicious edges?

How would you ever show your face in Oklahoma, if your surrey was unequipped with a fringe on the top?

Where would Tabby’s Place, or your family, or this freckled, fantastical civilization, be, without fringe folks like Audrey and Humphrey?

In the carousel of Suite FIV, Audrey and Humphrey are the furthest unicorns from the center. She’s old enough to remember when Breakfast at Tiffany’s first came to the theaters (her then-boyfriend bought her a box of Sno-Caps made out of bologna). His eye is so cloudy and his third eye so open, you can forget and remember yourself just looking at him.

They are quiet, convivial, no one’s idea of an “it couple.” Adopters and paparazzi and pollsters and pulse-takers all prance elsewhere, flung by habit to the center, the Spaghetti, the screamers and the stylish and the young and the yammering.

But all the while, the fringes frizzle with life.

It’s a quieter life, to be sure. It’s peculiar and pizazzled and perhaps not everyone’s style. But fringe folk are at peace, long past the daft demands that they command everyone’s admiration. They know that no one is for everyone, not even the “main characters.” Some of us love too big; some of us talk too fast; some of us take too long to answer; some of us think we have all the answers; some of us wear puff-paint sweatshirts or crooked shags or cockeyed optimism or our own inescapable essence too much for others’ liking.

The carousel and the costume and the civilization need us all.

We tend to specialize in fringe folks at Tabby’s Place. Speaking entirely for myself, I will attest that this applies tenderly, like hand-sewn patches over frayed fringey jeans, to at least two species.

Our cats and our humans alike have gazed longingly towards what seems like the sun, only to find our place and our peace and our panache in a further orbit. Even the gusto-gushers and nutty donut holes among us are “fringey” in ways you won’t find on the front page of Vogue or the Wall Street Journal or your own secret Diary Of Expectations.

We are a shaggy bunch of unicorns.

Fortunately, the carousel spins sweetly on.

And as we celebrate Tabby’s Place’s 19th anniversary this week, there’s ever so much to look forward to.

Our wildly different little boats will all get us to the same lighthouse, flags and fringes flying.

And Audrey and Humphrey are standing on the bridge, captaining us towards the carnival where all fringe folk find their forever peace.

And pizzazz.

1 thought on “On the fringes

  1. Now there’s a pleasant way to get the week started. Wonderful words from Angela Hartley about wonderful cats at Tabby’s Place. Pictures of cats. There’s no better way to face the day! (Love you, Steven!)

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