The house that Ziv rented with his girlfriend sat at the very top of a series of Los Angeles hills at the bottom of which was a Salvadoran bakery. The half mile walk down seemed worth it when we were hungry but a mistake after eating the pastrys on the walk back and so the journey up the steep hills took twice as long and was less than half as enjoyable. Several mornings in a row, Adam and I got back to Zivs house, fought off the urge to go back to sleep after the late nite and the long, carby climb, and went to work in the studio.
It was 1996 and this was a good deal for us. We'd been playing together for a few years and we worked late into the nights, went to sleep, Ziv went to his day gig at a hip Hollywood recording studio, his girlfriend to her day job, and we'd do our best to wake up, do our own tracking of guitars or vocals, and wait for Ziv to return so we could resume the heavyweight sessions. Uninterrupted hours of free studio time. Awesome LA players happy to record for us. A rare opportunity to get our work done.
His cat was obnoxious but just the medicine I needed to lighten up when Adams and my cranky-creative horns locked or when I became homesick. The grey, matted bundle of fat lumbered about, avoided stairs, and loved the tin rooftops that held the landscape together. He meowed silently and never made eye contact....a cats version of a cold shoulder.
We made ourselves at home and while Adam is a very tidy, organized and admittedly germaphobic individual, I'm not. But Ziv and Rositas kitchen made even me uncomfortable. There was a stick of butter sitting out on the table all day long, gnats circling, sometimes sticking to it. Dirty, sticky splats of the last meals spillage. There were boxes of cereal, rice and spices sitting opened on the counter. The cutting board was stained and wet from the night before and dirty dishes were piled as high as they could be without touching the bottom of the pantry above. The refrigerator smelled awful from old half eaten things and shoddily covered stuff and spills that had hardened and gone bad. Adam took out a grapefruit and offered me half, presumably safe as it was in its own skin. The floor was tacky and crunchy and every cabinet was filthy, every surface cluttered. The six foot rubber plant that sat beside the dinette table was wilted and brown. Fat cat's smell was prominent, although curiously it looked as if the litter box was the only thing that had been recently maintained.
I'd already cried belly ache the night before to avoid sitting in the nauseating breakfast nook and couldn't see how I would be able to force myself to break bread at the next meal with our hosts.
It seemed like none of our business and we should just get our work done, but in a trifecta of motivational distraction (our desire for a clean space to "live" in for the week, an opportunity to contribute to the household, and a bit of procrastination) we decided to clean the kitchen.
We skimmed the butter and put it into the refrigerator, packed some dry goods that were sitting out in open boxes and bags into zip lock bags and glass jars. Adam sorted all the catalogues, brochures, bills and other mail into two piles, each in size order.
We wiped out the fridge, cleaned and disinfected every surface, handle, and knob, polished the floor, dusted the lamp, washed the window and put some flowers (growing wild in front of the neighbors house) into a chipped carafe in some water and on the now clear table. Pinesol, Simple Green, baking soda and a southern California crossbreeze replaced the smells of rancid oil, sour milk and rotten God-knows-what. Curiously, the cat urine smell persisted but I considered ourselves successful.
The fat cat stood by frowning and only watching us in his peripheral vision. I loved this cat but Adam kept shooing him aside and called him a dick. The cat was morbidly unaffected in a feline delivery of passive aggression.
I plucked the brownest leaves from the rubber plant, wiped down the remaining leaves and watered it. It drank and drank and after just a short while, my partner and I stood together and took in the newly neat, clean kitchen....table set and plant standing tall and as happy as can be.
Our hosts came home, entered the kitchen, threw several days of mail down on the counter, and came to a slow halt. I waited for acknowledgement of our generous intervention, but Ziv and Rosita began to silently stir....Ziv took took the butter out and put it back on counter. Rosita commenced to prepare dinner. Ziv put dry goods that I'd put in the cupboard back out on the table.
We ate dinner together and talked about our plans for the evenings session. Adam and I were on the edges of our seats the whole time, hoping they were happy with what we'd done. There was also the tinge of concern that we'd be yelled at for taking liberties with their property, their systems and their lifestyle.
Nothing. They said nothing.
We finished up our meal, scraped our plates into the sparkling white, hefty bag lined trash receptacle, rinsed our dishes and began to follow Ziv downstairs, hoping for an inspired nights work. Adam and I looked at oneanother with baffled amazement and just as I turned in the doorway I spotted the cat, slapped Adam on the arm and gestured for him to step back into the living room and have a look. We watched in dejected amazement as the fat cat stood perched atop the moist soil, beneath the happy leaves of the rubber plant. In a focused shiver and a transcendental squint, he peed to his hearts content, gladly shooting us the feline equivalent of an insolent grin and a middle finger.