THE BALLAD OF FISHYMEOW
Our beloved icon was once just another painting brought in by a customer, to be restored and framed for posterity. I remember catching a glimpse of it while walking past the design table, reveling in how odd it was, and immediately forgetting all about it until it returned from the restorer, staring up at me from the fitting table, waiting to be framed. Finally having the chance to commune with this crazed, cross-eyed feline in the throws of carnivorous ecstasy, a slow and subtle preoccupation emerged. Bill was across the table working on something else, and we bantered at length about the possible narrative of both the painter and her subject. Finally, my compulsion hit critical mass, and as I continued to go about the task of securing the frame to the painting, I sang aloud the ditty that had crowded out every other thought:
Meow, meow meow, fishy fishy meow
fishy fishy meow,
fishy fishy meow
Meow, meow meow, fishy fishy meow
fishy fishy meow meow,
yum yum yum!
Bill dropped his tools on the table and stared slack-jawed. We exploded with laughter. Toxoplasmosis, or crazy cat person syndrome, as I like to think of it, is caused by parasites contracted by proximity to cat feces. This painting somehow transmitted the psychosomatic equivalent, and we have never been the same since. We replaced the lyrics to radio songs with alternating patterns of “fishy” and "meow”. Doodles Bill drew throughout the day now only had one theme, and years later we are still finding them, tucked in books and various recesses. I lamented for months that I hadn't thought to take a picture of Fishymeow before he left for home. I frequently proclaimed that one day we would sift through the annals of customer history to find that woman's contact info, and confess our undying love for her eccentric heirloom.
As my time at this frame shop drew to a close, I made a final request. In no time at all, there in an email, was the customer's contact info. It might as well have belonged to a celebrity. Cracking the proverbial knuckles, I set about crafting a message that could convey our affections without coming off completely loony tunes. Not knowing whether I succeeded, we hit send fully expecting that to be the end of the story. Within the week, however, Bill forwarded me the response.
Subject: Frame shop employees reminiscing on their favorite cat painting
You may recall about a year ago you brought to Frame It/Waban Gallery an old painting, done by your mother if I'm not mistaken, of an upright cat holding a big fish. I hope you don't mind the intrusion, but Bill and I absolutely loved that piece, and we wanted to connect with you about it. You see, as soon as it entered the shop it sent our imaginations into overdrive. Being artists/musicians we found many ways of expressing our love for this quizzical character. As I was framing it I made up a little ditty on the fly that eventually evolved and took on a life of its own. Bill drew countless cartoon sketches, the narratives of which also became monumental as we indulged in our daily fixation of what would become our favorite kitty: Fishymeow.
Fishymeow has lived on in our memories as one of the most playfully inspiring images we have been privileged to handle and frame. Our only regret is that we can only access it with our memories. Occasionally a frame shop might take the liberty of documenting a piece in order to illustrate various techniques, but because this one was so straightforward we have no such souvenir. And so we come to this email, and why we have decided to contact you so long after the fact. Had we realized just how persistently Fishymeow would infiltrate our lives we might have snuck a photo to preserve our memory, but alas we could not foresee how much stronger our fondness would grow.
The life and mind of Fishymeow has grown beyond the limits of his frame, and he has taken his rightful place among the mythical characters of Puss N Boots and The Cheshire Cat, surpassing modern day icons like Felix and Garfield with depth and dignity. Tackling that enormous fish with crazed abandon, Fishymeow illustrates a strength and determination commonly sought but so rarely achieved in human form.
As strange as all of this may sound to you, we hope you are at the very least flattered, and that you might consider our humble request to revisit this painting, and with your permission, possibly snatch one small photo for posterity. How this might be accomplished would of course be entirely up to you. If a house visit is not an option, or you are not handy with a camera, perhaps the next time you bring something into frame it Fishymeow could tag along for the ride?
If, however, you would be so kind as to allow us to come to you, you can either call or email us to let us know the best time to make an appointment.
If you would prefer to preserve his privacy we would certainly understand, you are in no way obligated to indulge us. At the very least we wanted to thank you for exposing us to such a wonderful piece of art, and to affirm that you should be proud to have such talent in your family.
All the best,
Jamie & Bill
Re: Frame shop employees reminiscing on their favorite cat painting
You guys are hilariously, creatively, profoundly nuts. And I love it. My mother and grandmother (the painter) would be gleefully rolling over in their graves to know that someone other than them, and me, appreciate the bizarre, evocative and dryly humorous aspects of that paining. My husband and kids still cringe that it's hanging in our home but they allow me my familial and artistic quirks.
I am sending you a crummy akilter shot from my phone a minute ago. If you'd like something better, for sure you can come over and say hi to the fish-eating Siamese and take a better photo.
I'd like to see/hear your ditty, sketches, narratives around this oddball painting. So dear to my heart. (and frankly, I enjoy that it disturbs most viewers)