Friday, May 22, 2009

Meatpacking Cats

Making way for another glass tower, Interstate Foods, one of the largest meatpacking plants in the Meatpacking District, has been closed for some time now. It seems its roommate, Atlas Meats, is gone, too. The once-busy building has been quiet for weeks. The metal hooks that once hung so evocatively from the rusty canopy are gone. No meat deliveries come here anymore. The sidewalk, once slippery with a white film of fat, is bare.

But at least two denizens of the meatpacking plant remain.



From an open cellar door, a pair of recently unemployed tabbies sun themselves on a warm day in May. A concerned friend has left cans of cat food open on the top cellar step. But the cats don't bother with this fake stuff. They know real meat. They know scraps of prime beef and chicken. They know the thrill of hunting for live prey.



They are a bit battered, rough around the edges. Kind of greasy. Not the sort of cats a woman walking by in couture would stoop to stroke behind the ears. But one man comes by. Dressed in dirty coveralls with his name stitched on the pocket, blue tattoos on his arms, and an eye that looks like it has seen better days--he's a little rough around the edges, too.

He crouches down and puts out a hand. One of the cats ignores him, too lazy in the sun, but the other begins meowing, almost a complaint, as if to say, Get away. Undeterred, the man makes a soft, reassuring sound. The cat approaches, rubs against the man's red knuckles. They stay this way for a few minutes, the cat circling the man, letting him pet her head, retreating and returning.



When the man has had his fill of cat-love, he gets up to go. Seeing me watching, he explains, "I just love cats." The tabby follows him for a few steps, then retreats to her spot in the shade.

Without the meatpacking plant and its vermin to be hunted, where will these cats go? Maybe the Von Furstenberg store next door will take them.

14 comments:

EV Grieve said...

To be honest, I'm surprised some click-clacking, heel-wearing yunnie you describe hasn't filed a complaint to have the cats taken away.

~*~Lilly~*~ said...

absolutely loved this post! It's always the rough around the edges men that have the softest spot for 4 legged little friends. :)

Anonymous said...

"recently unemployed tabbies" -- that's awesome.

Well, I'm almost always in a skirt and heels (assuredly not couture, though) and I'd stop and scratch any of 'em, if they'd let me. But despite appearances I'm totally a crazy cat lady. I have a soft spot for the street-tough ones ones, a clip out of the ear, partially amputated tail. My childhood cat was rescued from a commercial fishing-boat dock in a sketchy part of NJ, but went on to live 16 happy years with me.

I will go out of my way to go to a bodega, bar, or florist if it has a cat. I even found out about the bodega cats flickr on this very blog:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/893922@N22/

Anyway, the (new) meatpacking district makes me kinda ill, but if there are cats on the loose I finally have a reason to go over there, even just to see them peeking out from behind a door.

Steve said...

Poor kitties.

I gotta say, though, I will not miss the slippery white film of fat on the sidewalk. I've nearly busted my ass on that more than once.

Goggla said...

Aw, those kittehs were living high on the hog!

Anonymous said...

WHY must NYC destroy its neighborhoods? I once lived near the Meatpacking District. It had such character; now it's gone.

Anonymous said...

thats funny-i noticed those cats a couple of days ago also. same place--same tins. It was a funny contrast to DVF's store next door. and That deli across the street from it closed.

Anonymous said...

these cats are the hard workers. Survivors!!
EV Grieve I know what you mean about mean spirited yuppies.Funny how some of them treat their pets better than humans--I figured it out--their pets are their kids. I hate yuppies/yunnies.

Ken Mac said...

great reporting, as always. If sad. Soon, only memories (and my pics!) will remain.

Madeira Darling said...

I just stumbled upon your blog (was poking around looking for a new york times article about the second life chelsea hotel) and it reminded me of the sense of longing I've had since I was a little girl, (born in Williamsburg Brooklyn, moved away when I was 4 to Massachusetts, moved back on my own when I was 17) for New York... when i came back finally, nothing was as I remembered. My boyfriend and I are... bohemians to say the least (he's a musician and I'm a writer) money's tight, and life sucks far more than I remember it sucking for my similarly bohemian parents back in the early 90's. Everything has become so disgustingly plastic, and this previously wild city seems disgustingly tamed. I can't even get into see the bands I love most because nowhere small has all ages shows and people are so strict about underage admission (I'm 19)

Anonymous said...

You're wise way beyond your years Madeira Darling. It's always good / sad to see people from different age groups are noticing what's happening to the city.

Ed said...

"WHY must NYC destroy its neighborhoods?"

The main industry in the city is real estate (if you think about this for a few minutes, this makes no sense at all). If you didn't "develop" neighborhoods, there would be no profit in real estate. Real estate works if you either create new neighborhoods on the periphery (sprawl) or take old neighborhoods, destroy them, and rebuild them (urban renewal and gentrification).

Sempion said...

I suppose then that the terms "development, renewal, and gentrification" are freely interchangeable with unfettered loss of small business, and the complete character assault on NYC's long standing global image.

The main reason for this site, and the gravitas behind comments like mine and so many others here are because of the intentions, or lack of meaningful attention - both I suppose, toward historic development of the city, and how that should inform the choices that are being made. Profit and renewaldoesn't have to equal, or lead to an ongoing campaign of cultural loss. Duane Reade didn't discover the Island of Manhattan, but pretty soon that name will be on some plaque alongside the Dutch Settlers.

john said...

with all this gentrification/urban renewal talk, arent we really just talkng about capitalism/imperialism? ie: the imposition of one culture/value system/etc. on another less empowered to protect itself (under rules it did not necessarily have a hand in writing)?

i'm not talking for "big C" capitalism, which is but a theory written by a dour scotsman. i'm talking about the "get mine, fuck you" ethos that arrived in the first wave of gentrification to hit Manhattana island oh, 600 years or so ago... (ps: dont give me a lesson on what indian tribes did to each other, reactionary white so-called liberals)

the pendulum of justice (balance) swings slow, but it most assuredly swings...

are people with socialistic bents still allowed inside NYC city limits, or are they only limited to wall street penthouse offices? ;)

what is democracy anyway?