The glorious colors of Fall… the vibrant plumage of trees in the crisp decay of Summer’s path to Winter. Scattered remnants of foliage occupy ground and dance in the Fall breeze. The slowly descending sun on the horizon marks its path from Summer solstice to Winter solstice. Explosions of colored leaves sparkle in the Fall’s bright and shiny, shimmering sun. Many dream of Halloween treats… Thanksgiving meals… I dream of Amish farmland, Fall Pennsylvania golf, and cat shows.
Amish farmland in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area is rolling and a mix of brown, tan, and remaining Summer green. Broad leaf trees change colors rapidly… one minute they turn from green to a blazing yellow, red, or orange… the next minute they drop and float lazily to the ground. Surprisingly, Fall in Amish Pennsylvania is exactly as you imagine it. Lancaster, Pennsylvania is just like Paris and New York City… you have seen pictures and films that show them in all their glory… when you visit them in person there is no surprise… but there is a comfort in realizing it is exactly how you pictured it. Lancaster is gold, brown, yellow, red, and orange in the Fall… Lancaster golf courses are covered in vibrant colored leaves. Oh… Fall in Lancaster also means CAT SHOW.
A few years ago, my BFF and I travelled to Lancaster to play some Fall golf. Others were invited… but as usual we were told no… their kids and wives had other plans for them. Grown married men who are fathers have a hard time explaining a weekend away for golf when the wife and kids dream of corn mazes and pumpkin picking. Happydingo and Sublimemonkey shrug their shoulders and head off to golf in the quiet Fall season in Lancaster while their friends stand in line and watch their kids pick too-big-for-carving pumpkins.
Chasing golf balls among multi-hued dead leaves is an adventure. Amazingly, white golf balls become hidden treasures among the decay and flotsam of Fall. Every tee shot… every iron shot becomes a personal game of hide and seek. Long pants, long sleeves, and golf wind shirts keep the brisk Fall coolness at bay while you hunt for your golf ball… chilled air makes the ball go farther… yet it just means you must hunt more for that white and elusive entity you call your own. Golf course horticulture allows fairways and greens to maintain a color that says Summer… yet the scattered leaves definitely says Fall. Fall golf in Amish Pennsylvania is definitely a game of small white balls and blowing leaves. Ponce de Leon had better luck finding the Fountain of Youth than we did in finding our golf balls.
Fall Amish Pennsylvania also says cat show. I don’t own a cat… never have owned a cat. Never really trust a creature that is smarter than you. Never trust a creature that can jump higher and further than you… never trust any creature that stalks the nightmares of Halloween. Happydingo owns two… his house is a menagerie of animal hair, turds… and turd eaters… his small beagle has a discerning palate. Wonder how many turds are at a cat show?… We didn’t travel to Lancaster to see a cat show… but Lancaster offered us one.
One of the golf courses we played was also a mini-convention center… Lancaster isn’t that large… nor is it the type of place that needs a large convention center. It is, however, the kind of place that people travel to shop, see leaves die, play golf, and gawk at Amish buggies and beards. Lancaster is just big enough to garner the need for a small convention center for knick-knack shows… farm implement and 4H fairs… oh… and cat shows.
On the first day of golf… Saturday… we left our hotel in the dewy cool morning and grabbed coffee. A quick trip down the main drag of Lancaster got us to our golf course. A marquee at the exit for the golf course announced Fall golf specials and… a cat show. Jackpot! Epic Win! Golf and cat show!
Let me reiterate… I own no cats… I know nothing about them other than they steal a baby’s breath when the baby sleeps… and cats plot your murder all day while you are out working. A cat show, however, spoke of possibility. It spoke of the idea of seeing cats in sweaters… old frumpy women in embroidered sweaters depicting cats… it spoke of single, anti-social people who love evil creatures.
We payed for our round of golf and drove our cart to the first tee as the sun burst over the eastern horizon. Enroute to the first tee box we saw cat enthusiasts unload crates, boxes, tables, chairs, and all the other shit people unload when going to a fair or show. Minivans with personalized tags like “KATLVR” and “CATLDY” slowly crowded the mini-convention center’s parking lot. The crazy cat lady from the Simpsons had arrived in mass.
Again… I don’t own cats… but cats and what a cat show entails were the topics of conversation when we pushed our first tee into the ground… and it was the topic of conversation when we putted our last ball. How much does it cost to attend a cat show? Will cats be on leashes and pranced around a ring for spectators and judges? Will thick-ankled and pantyhosed-legged handlers walk around bragging about their specific breed? Will cat owners sit in the audience and announce proudly when Mr. Biggles of Bigglington Boulevard (shortened to “Biggley”) comes forth and gets judged?
The four-hour round of golf turned into a mix of cursing Fall Amish Pennsylvania leaves for hiding our golf balls and a cost-benefit analysis of what a first time-ever cat show attendance was worth. After numerous hours of kicking golden leaves, we determined that anything less $20 was worth seeing a cat show. Praise to the little plastic baby Jesus… this cat show only charged $5 for entrance… the golf gods had smiled. Along with this cost-benefit analysis, we discussed how we could live with ourselves if we didn’t attend the cat show… was getting to a bar by 2pm more important than seeing Biggley?
So while in golf shoes and the grime that follows a round of golf… this is what we saw and learned about cat shows:
Cat shows are not like dog shows… at least not like the dog shows you see on television. At most there were 75 – 100 people in attendance. Seems the cat owners/handlers were also the spectators. Mixed in with the owners/handlers was a handful of children ranging from age 6-14… primarily girls… future cat ladies. We couldn’t determine if these kids were someones children or grandchildren… no one seemed to be their parents/owners/handlers. So imagine a small group of cat enthusiasts with a handful of future social outcasts (kids) running around.
Yes… cat shows are primarily populated by women… older middle-aged women… your aunt… your grandmother… your odd neighbor lady whose husband died of some weird factory accident. Out of the 75-100 attendees… there were exactly 8 men… yes we counted… yes we included ourselves. There was one small boy around age 6 who seemed as thoroughly confused and awestruck as Happydingo and me. He wasn’t running around with any of the girls… he was sitting on a metal folding chair and eating cake (more on that later).
As Fashionable As You Imagine
Sweaters and T-shirts with cats on them was the number one attire… of course it was. Unfortunately, the cat motif wasn’t cats in hats… or cats doing anything special… basically cat or cats sitting or playing was the standard design. Whatever glorious cat adored shirt or sweater abounding at the show was muted compared to the 3 or 4 women who decided that it was perfectly acceptable to wear an outfit that matched their breed of cat… your cat breed looks like a mini-cheetah?… well then you get a matching shirt, scarf, and pants that makes you look like a 55-year old dumpy cheetah. Your cat is striped like a dangerous jungle tiger… well then you camouflage yourself like a 1960s Vietnamese guerilla in tiger stripe. Oh… the other 6 men in attendance were in tweed jackets including elbow patches… only thing missing was a pipe… fortunately the jackets had an abundance of cat hairs. Happydingo and I were glad/mortified to realize we were the only ones walking around in trousers, golf shirts and shoes, and ball caps… we obviously looked like the weirdest muthafuckas in the room.
Cats Aren’t Leashed
Nope not leashed… not even pranced around. Cat crate is brought to table that has a scratching post… cat is gingerly removed… cat starts scratching… cat ladies ooh and ahh. Tweed jacket men hmmm and mmm. Happydingo and Sublimemonkey stifle laughter… but who are we to judge the spectators/owners/handlers?… we definitely couldn’t judge individual cats and breeds… so we definitely couldn’t judge others. Seems fat cats were not in attendance… seems lean, healthy, velvety-coated cats are the only ones deserving of the prominent scratching post.
They Serve Cake
Seems cat shows are populated by really nice people… exactly as nice as your single aunt who lives alone with a bunch of cats and waits anxiously for your once-year visit… as time and calendar is marked by days, weeks, months… until the sad moment of death. Cat show people greet you enthusiastically… they take your $5 and then provide every detail possible. They don’t bat an eye at your golfing attire… they don’t think twice about your obvious misplacement in a room full of middle-aged women. THEY SERVE YOU FREE CAKE… a cake that had a… wait for it… wait for it… a cat on it. They slice a piece and hand it to you as you enter and gleefully… and honestly… tell you to enjoy yourself.
After an 45 minutes to an hour, we left and headed back to our car and clubs. We said nothing to one another as our plastic spiked golf shoes clicked on the parking lot asphalt. We had glimpsed a world that was unbeknownst to us… we had seen a surreal and parallel universe. The car’s lock clicked unlock… we climbed in and shut the doors. I griped the steering wheel and to no one and to everyone I screamed “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?”… Happydingo didn’t answer… we left in a muted… but happy silence.