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New York, New York!
The energy of New York comes from a multitude of sounds: taxicab horns blaring, ambulance and police sirens blasting, street sweepers humming, and the sounds of feet clicking on the sidewalk. Maybe there will be a boom-box somewhere off in the distance. A heartbeat, that’s what Manhattan feels like to me. It’s almost like the racing of my heart as I look down from my plane’s panoramic view of the city. I know that I, too, will soon be part of those symphonic beats and sounds.
I made one trip to New York City as a tourist and remember running (literally) with a list in hand to try to see everything in the city on a certain timeframe…impossible! My other trips to the city were always involved with work as I would spend most of my time at Madison Square Garden judging cat shows and then sneak in as much sightseeing time as possible thanks, mostly, to my friends that lived in the city.
This particular trip involved the business of our organization. The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), a grand old cat registry, was celebrating its Centennial year. We were asked to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange in honor of those 100 years of business and I was going to be standing on the podium at 4:00PM that bright afternoon in October, 2006! What an honor.
Our Branding Company, 4-Kids Entertainment, invited four of us from CFA to be on the podium. 4-Kids is a member of the NYSE and therefore eligible to participate in ‘the ringing of the bell’. Our registry President Pam DelaBar, I as Vice-President, Roeann Fulkerson, our Director of Marketing and Public Relations, and our Executive Director Allene Tartaglia represented CFA. Also, since it was the week of the CFA/Iams Cat Championships in Madison Square Garden, the Iams Company Brand manager (another woman) was also invited.
To my great surprise, the chairperson of the NYSE was also a woman, so we had only women and one lonely man, the CEO of 4-Kids, on the podium. How’s that for girl power!
When we arrived, we were ushered into a side room that was very formal. The walls were paneled in a deep rich brown wood that looked like it had been there from antiquity. An exquisite silver tea service was positioned at the end of a twelve foot table and they had set out tasty sweets of many varieties and finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off like my mother used to make for her bridge club. I was so nervous, I really didn’t want to eat anything, but then all the lessons in manners from my tiny Southern mother kicked into gear. I took a few bites and sipped a tea just to be polite.
Earlier they had asked us to bring cats. Pam and I thought it would be better to handle kittens than adult cats. We decided upon a beautiful black Persian female and a handsome cream European Burmese male. Pam and I opted to handle the kittens as we were both cat show judges.
They provided special people who explained how everything would work. They even had a mock-up of the podium under the bell in this formal room so we could take pictures beforehand and so everyone would know where to stand when we did the real thing.
Then they asked us if we would go out on the floor of the stock exchange with the cats. I immediately grabbed for the Persian, but Pam got there first. “She was supposed to be mine!” I muttered under my breath. Pam and I were long-standing friends, but I knew what she had in her mind. You can set off a firecracker under a Persian and she will look up with those big round eyes and say, “What’s for dinner?”
European Burmese, on the other hand, are small shorthaired cats with great muscle and an even greater amount of attitude.
“Hey Pam,” I said, “I’m the Persian breeder!”
“Too bad, Angell,” she replied, “I’m the President.” Believe me; no one wants to be second in command.
As I walked over to get the European Burmese kitten, I asked the owner if he had a special name. “Just Jack,” she said. “Okay, Just Jack,” I replied as I took him out of the carrier, “We’re going to have a fine time together.” His body language told me that he was comfortable with my handling and that was a good sign. As I said before, shorthaired cats have a mind of their own, but Jack was turning out to be a true gentleman.
European Burmese are called ‘European’ because they do not look like American Burmese. In the early 1900’s, American Burmese breeders went in one direction with their breeding agenda and the rest of the world went another way, resulting in two cats of the same ancestry that do not look alike. I feel we should call ours ‘American Burmese’, since the rest of the world calls theirs just plain ‘Burmese.’ But you know how we are, we feel like we have done everything the right way and so, in America only, they are referred to as European Burmese
We slowly made our way through the sea of men swarming around the stock exchange floor. I was praying that no one would make a lunge for Jack. And Jack started sinking a little farther into my chest. “It’s okay, buddy,” I whispered to Jack, “They’re just staring at you because they’re jealous.” He twitched an ear as if to give me the go ahead. A couple of guys wanted to pet Jack and I allowed it, still holding him protectively, but most were headed for Pam and the Persian, gushing over all that long silky black hair and the big round copper-penny eyes.
After we made the rounds on the stock exchange floor, we were ushered to the podium and everyone took their pre-assigned places. Not to brag, but Pam and I had chosen well in our attire. She wore a red wool suit and her raven black hair matched the Persian perfectly. I was in a deep forest green silk suit; my blonde hair a few shades darker than Jack the European Burmese. Jack’s coat looked more like the cream in my grandmother’s home churned butter.
As Pam reached for the button that rang the bell, I saw her place the Persian kitten’s paw on the button. “Nice touch,” I thought to myself. At that moment a bell so loud went screaming out across the building that it could have shattered glass three blocks away. I was holding Jack with one hand firmly under his chest and my other hand pressed flat against the back of his neck. He started to rear backwards. Roeann, a long-time shorthaired Oriental cat breeder, was standing just to my left and knew exactly what to do. Gently, she reached over my shoulder and touched the back of his head. That was all it took. Jack settled back into my arms. “My dearest Roeann,” I thought to myself. “Thank you.”
After the ‘ringing of the bell’ was over, I took Jack back to his human mother and watched her snuggle him into his carrier. “Just Jack,” I said with authority, “You’re going to make a fine strong Tomcat, and you’ve certainly got class.”
We girls all left the building together, ears still ringing, feet killing us from standing in three inch heels all day, but feeling more exhilarated than I, for one, had ever felt. As we came to the end of the block, I took one last look at the stock exchange building. Three flags unfurled in the sharp evening breeze: The flag of The United States of America, the New York Stock Exchange flag, and the Cat Fanciers’ Association flag. “Pretty fancy company,” I thought to myself as tears brimmed in my eyes.