I hung out with the pampered dogs of New York’s PupScout Troop 4 as they held a meeting in the park and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, attracting throngs of admirers.
The Ballad of Bimbo the Deer
I Went to Montreal’s New Cat Cafe on Shrooms
I have a broken relationship with cats. Once in a while, they take a moment from shitting in boxes and lurking in dark corners to glare at me with indifference or distrust, but that’s about it. Up until now, we’ve been working under the unspoken agreement to not really give a shit about each other. So when VICE asked me to visit the new cat café that had just opened in Montreal, my dysfunctional relationship with cats came to the fore.
Café des Chats is the first establishment of its kind to open in Canada. If you’re not familiar with the concept of a cat café, it’s basically a coffee shop with a bunch of cats living inside it. I thought the concept seemed a little contrived, and the thought of drinking espresso in a room that’s crawling with eight unimpressed and distrusting creatures initially sounded like a bit of a nightmare. But, framed the right way, this could be a great opportunity to face my fears and heal my relationship with felines. Maybe throwing them into our neighborhood cafés is actually a great idea.
Either way, I probably wasn’t going to enjoy myself or learn anything by going in my current headspace, so I decided to take some mushrooms before crossing the cat café threshold.
I spoke with the owner Nadine a few days before my visit, and she agreed to have me come by half an hour before it opened on Friday, at 9:30 in the morning. I met up with Stephanie (our photographer) beforehand to drink mushroom tea and have some grounding, sober thoughts while I still could. I sat on the edge of her couch at 8:45, taking careful sips as the sun glanced off her bookshelf. I watched the cluster of green mushroom bits swirl into the tea, thinking of how the fate of my morning rested in its murky depths.
After I finished my cup, we biked over to the café in Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood, and stood outside to take a photo of me nervously laughing outside.
I was still clear-headed, but knew by the way my fingers were tingling I was on my way to ShroomTown. I watched Stephanie fiddle with her camera and realized that while we were in there, she would be the only other human that knew I was tripping. I made a mental note to remember that if things got out of control.
The co-owner Youseff saw us standing outside and came out to greet us.
“Welcome,” he said. “Come on in.”
Christopher Isherwood and His Twink: How to Date a Gay Novelist Who Is Older Than Your Dad
When I was 25, I moved to Berlin with a beat-up copy of Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories tucked in my bag. Like many hobosexuals and fagabonds before me, I considered the book a lodestone, a guide to transmuting aimless searching and polymorphous desire into meaningful experiences. So when I heard that Farrar, Straus, and Giroux was releasing The Animals,a collection of the letters of Isherwood and his longtime lover, artist Don Bachardy, I knew I had to read it.
Bachardy met Isherwood when he was 18 and Isherwood was 48 (a year older than Bachardy’s own father). Despite the age difference, the couple spent the next 33 years together. Though love affairs and artistic exploits frequently sent them ricocheting around the world, they maintained a deep and unbreakable connection. They expressed this affection (and frustration) through “the Animals,” personae the two adopted in their letters. Bachardy acted as Kitty and Isherwood called himself Dobbin, Kitty’s faithful horse.
Bachardy, now 80, still lives in the house the couple shared in Santa Monica. Shaking with faggoty fan boy excitement, I called Bachardy to discuss The Animals and what it’s like dating a famous old man who was older than his dad.
VICE: How did your letters become a book?
Don Bachardy: It was my idea. I’d saved all of Chris’s letters, and after his death, I found that he’d saved all of mine. Reading through them just made me think the material was too good not to share it with others. There’s almost nothing, no letter in the book, that is missing, except one, though I can’t remember now where in the sequence it is.
Did you ever discuss publishing something like this with Chris before he died?
No, no, no. And the animals at the time would have been horrified at the suggestion that they would ever be revealed and their letters [would be] published in a book. They would have been quite shocked by such an idea.
What changed your thinking?
I came across both sets of letters and it was very strange reading them again, but interesting too. There were even some laughs in the material, our attempts to entertain each other. There were things I would have liked to have changed—would have changed if I could—but then it’s always a mistake to tamper with any mementos of the past.
Here Are Some Great Photos of People Posing Next to a Cardboard Cutout of the Pope
Last September I wrote a blog post about the pope, and to find an image that could go with it I started browsing through Flickr’s Creative Commons library, which is a great place to find images you don’t have to pay for. I didn’t get any particularly good shots of Pope Francis, but my search led me to the Flickr page of Catholic United Financial, an account that has over 6,000 photos—all of them of people posing next to cardboard cutouts of Pope Francis.
Now, I don’t know anything about Catholic United Financial, though I imagine it’s some sort of charity that brings cardboard cutouts of the pope to events. As you scroll through the photos the cutout changes from waving happy Pope Francis to a more serious Pope Francis, so I assume the cutouts get worn out after so much use, but that’s conjecture on my part. I prefer to keep myself ignorant, because adding context to these photos—where they were taken, what events the cardboard pope was attending, why a charity would decide to post them all online—will only detract from the pure joy I get from periodically clicking through that Flickr page.
And for the record, I’m not enjoying these photos on some kind of ironically detached level where I’m pointing and laughing at people in Middle America who like something as old-fashioned as the Catholic Church. The images below are great simply because they show people being happy. Thank you, Catholic United Financial!
These fashion kids are dressed like fashion adults!
The Cat Circus Proves Humans Love Watching Cats Do Dumb Shit
The cat-circus brand is a touring show that has been around for years. It seems to do pretty well. How could this be, I wondered? As the circus progressed, it seemed like a clear outline of every reason why kitschy cats have become such a popular enterprise.
Cats are assholes.
One of the joys of seeing cats doing stupid things is that it openly mocks how cats want to be seen.
Cats strut arrogantly, displaying their superiority by rejecting most of your ideas on what they should or should not do, but they’re also powerless puffballs. They’re like old British men, and it’s satisfying to see them get pied in the face.
The star cat is named Tuna, and he is a big-time diva. The only contribution Tuna makes to the show is pressing his bell, but his attitude is what makes him a star, and that’s why he’s on all of the merchandise. Throughout the show, I find myself alternating between loving Tuna and hating Tuna but never denying that Tuna is one magnetic cat.
Cats are cute.
Duh, a huge part of the fun of seeing a cat do anything is that they’re cute as shit. The eyes, the ears, the fur, the little paws—c’mon! They’re hot little fuckers, and they know it.
Has China’s One-Child Policy Bred a Generation of Dog Lovers?
People in Shanghai fucking love dogs, maybe even more than they love themselves. Walk down the street in China’s biggest city and you might see heiresses’ Chihuahuas getting facial scrubs, lawyers adjusting their poodle’s distressed jeans, a Yorkshire terrier with a pink Mohawk, or a couple feeding their corgi cupcakes outside a tea shop.
But what’s motivating the people of Shanghai to treat their dogs like extras in a Katy Perry video? Ask around and you get the impression that lots of locals are turning to their pups to fill a one-child-policy-shaped hole in their lives. It’s amateur psychology of the most amateurish kind, sure—but when you see a dog dressed up in little booties being pushed around in a stroller it’s hard to escape the conclusion that many Chinese people are turning themselves into surrogate bitches.
To tap into the city’s hound obsession—and to max out my phone’s memory with pictures of dogs wearing sneakers—I decided to head to the annual Shanghai International Dog Expo.
First I met Greg Li, Vice President of the Shanghai International Trade Promotion company, which organized the event. Sitting next to a board displaying the tagline, “My dog. My family. My life,” he explained that his event now attracts 50,000 people over five days, compared to 20,000 two years ago. He said unofficial stats put dog ownership rates here at around 12 percent of households, which would mean there are well over 1.1 million pet dogs in Shanghai, not including the nomadic armies of strays.