(From Joni Mitchell Paintings Interview of Joni Mitchell by Rene Engel © KCSN-FM December 21, 1999)
My cat, Nietzsche, peed all over a couple of chairs, and you can't snuggle him because he's part ocelot, so I said to him --and I love this cat. Look at his eyes. I mean he's such a romantic animal.
PI: Let's walk over to the painting.
JM: I said to him, “if you're going to act like an animal - you're going to live like an animal.” And I grabbed him by the stump of the tail and the nape of the neck, and I put him outside which I never do because we have coyotes that live at the end of the block. Well, he had the most hurt expression in his eyes and he disappeared for 18 days. Well, this cat and I have a ritual on the stairs between the bedroom and the downstairs of the house. We stop at the top, he stands on his hind legs, I swoop down, he takes my fingers in his mouth and he chews on them. Then we skip the next three steps, and he stands on his hind legs on the third [step]. Then we skip the next two [steps] and he stands up again and sometimes he stands up twice on each stair if he really loves me a lot that day. You know, like sometimes he just stands there if I did something, you know, and looks at the ground and doesn't look at me and doesn't stand up at all. But every time I go down the stairs, this cat goes with me. So with him absent the stairs became a painful place. I mean every time I went down them, there was hole in me. So the night he disappeared I went looking for pictures of him and found one when he was a kitten that was taken without outdoor film indoors. And his color is kind of lilac-y. He's like a puce color. So it was a kitten and his tail wasn't straight up; it didn't look like him. I thought, I'll never get him back from this. So I painted that the first night of his absence and I had to make the --grow him into adult from the picture, the source material I had, put his head straight up and remember the color that he was so that people could identify him. Then a friend of mine had them made up into laminates. And I distributed them with a phone number all through the neighborhood, you know, and this is how I got him back. Eighteen days later a gardener called up and said, “he's in our yard”. So I went down and he yelled at me. He was so skinny and had such a hurt look. And he yelled and he yelled and he yelled. And I yelled back and I noticed that he wanted to duck and belly up but then he changed his mind. No, he still had more madness to get out. So he yelled at me some more, but I softened my tone, you know, into a pleading tone, and finally he bellied up and I took him home with me. So that painting actually saved him from the wild because he was too proud to come home. I hurt his feelings so bad.
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