Of all the scenarios of the first moment I'd lay eyes on Jackson I’d shuffled through my head, Jackson brushing his teeth wasn’t one of them. Jackson mumbled to come in as his electric toothbrush whirred away, then headed into the bathroom to finish up. It felt a bit awkward, but sort of intimate at the same time. I made a dumb joke about having good oral hygiene, but my tongue got tied and Jackson missed what I said. I hung my Hello Kitty 20th Anniversary Jacket over the back of a chair and put my Tokidoki messenger bag onto the floor near the writing desk. Jackson entered the room and apologized for not being ready. I shook it off and said “Hello Jackson!” and held my arms open to get a hug, to which Jackson, without hesitation, walked over and threw his arms around me. I must say, Jackson gives good hug.
I took a look around the room. It was spacious and probably had a view of Long Island Sound, but it was a bit too dark to tell. There was a big bed at one end of the room. That’s where Jackson sleeps, I thought. Where is the sign over the bed marking the occasion? Where is the cat? This room needed a cat. I should have let him borrow one of mine—maybe Pee-tunia. Yes, I bet you can guess why I call her Pee-tunia. Maybe Jackson could work with her? Maybe he could take her with him when he leaves? I had to tell myself to focus…get back on the program, stop wasting time. This wasn’t a commercial break where I could run to the bathroom or get a pizza. Jackson was sitting right in front of me!
“Artist's” (that means me), interpretation of Jackson in his room.
The décor was so NOT Jackson. It was frilly, and chintz-y and toile-y. I shook my head and laughed, then said something about it and Jackson agreed. It was quite amusing to witness the clash of Mr. Cat Daddy who was sitting on a chair, putting on his socks, in such a yuppie stronghold. He was wearing a green t-shirt that had a “Fidel Catstro” graphic on it and his jeans were soft blue and a bit worn. Since his forearms were exposed, I could see his trademark tattoos blazing up each arm. I wanted to touch them to see if they would move, but I didn’t dare. His earrings were bigger and bolder than my own small diamond studs. His signature facial hair was a bit grown out, though the beard that grew off his chin was long and dark. I noticed he would stroke it occasionally, as if it were a cat. Again, I wanted to find out what it felt like, but I kept my hands to myself. Why have all those colors and fun textures on your body if you don’t let other people touch them? Geez.
The buzz of nerves I was experiencing started to simmer. It was so curious to be with someone I’ve only seen on my television, now sitting in front of me, so casually putting on his shoes. I felt so lucky, not to see him put on his shoes (come on, really?!), but to be in the room with him.
Jackson’s at a very interesting point in his life. He’s about to start working on Season Three of “My Cat From Hell” and though he has a lot of notoriety, his star-power has not yet fully reached orbit. He has no entourage along with him on this trip and has the space to walk the streets anonymously from time to time. Jackson has rocket-powered momentum and great potential. He knows he can pay his bills doing consulting, but he could really hit it big, IF he can manage to survive all the additional challenges he has ahead of him.
Jackson finished getting ready as we talked. He’s very easy going and we were having a good chat, but we were both starving and eager to get some food. It was already almost 8pm so we decided to go to the hotel restaurant instead of search for food options elsewhere since things tend to close up early. We ain't in New Yawk City after all.
We got off the elevator, not knowing which direction the restaurant was, so we guessed left and headed towards the Check-In area. The woman at the Front Desk told us the restaurant was in the opposite direction, so we turned around to head back where we came from. Getting turned around was becoming a theme for the evening.
The restaurant looked small, but I could see it dog-legged (sorry, I don’t know any cat shaped directions) off to the left. The couple in front of us, was seated as Jackson and I stood at the Hostess stand, waiting. The Hostess looked up and smiled at Jackson then asked; “Your name, please?” I was about to say something so Jackson wouldn’t have to say his name out loud, but Jackson said; “Galaxy” which made me swoon. I know, I’m just a star-struck middle aged woman, but for that split second, the Hostess assumed I was a Galaxy, too. Like the Grinch, my smile, which is normally two sizes too small, grew three times bigger that moment and stretched wall to wall.
The Hostess smiled, selected two menus and said, “Right this way, please” and ”mind your step” as we both almost tripped down the stairs into a window-lined room that overlooked the Sound. I wished it wasn’t so dark so we could see the view, but I didn’t really care. I had what I wanted to look at sitting down at the table in front of me.
I had the option of sitting to Jackson’s right, on the padded banquette, or I could sit across from him and not only look at him as I ate, but at myself. There was a mirror running perpendicular to the banquette, behind Jackson’s head and the last thing I wanted to see was myself masticating away (I bet you think it was pervy that I wrote; masticating, but it means; chewing, so there). I told Jackson I didn’t want to watch myself eat so I took the seat closer to him—yeah, I’m smooth, right? Good excuse to get closer. Heh. Heh.
They sat us in a corner away from the other guests. I wondered if they realized who Jackson was and were giving us some privacy? I was so delirious at this point, I didn’t give it much thought. I was about to have dinner with Jackson Galaxy. Who knew? I said a silent prayer that for once in my life I wouldn’t drop something on my shirt while I was eating. I refer to myself as the “human drop cloth” so I had good reason to be nervous. I kept looking at the menu but the words didn’t make sense. Jackson was talking about something that was bothering him and I just wanted to help him talk through it.
The waitress came over to take our drink order and we settled on a bottle of sparkling water. A few minutes later, she came back and said they were out of what we wanted, but was Pellagrino okay? We both enthusiastically said yes, but I doubt either of us cared. She asked if we wanted lemon with our water and I blurted out that of course we wanted lemon, we were celebrating!
I flashed back to when I was in my 20's and at a restaurant with my father. He'd just flown in to Minneapolis for a business trip, where coincidently I was going to college. I was with my boyfriend, Paul, who my father was glaring at disapprovingly. To break the tension, when the waiter came over to the table I said it was my father's birthday. A few seconds later, a guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt carrying a ukelele came over to the table. Before anyone could speak, he played “You're Nobody Until Somebody Loves You” instead of “Happy Birthday.” My father was mortified, but Paul and I were giggling like idiots. I was feeling very playful and thought I should pull the same thing on Jackson. The waitress stopped and asked what we were celebrating. Jackson tensed up a bit. I felt like I put my foot in my mouth. The temptation was to say; “Our Anniversary” just to get a rise out of Jackson, but I got scared, then stumbled my words and said something about getting to meet each other or something lame like that—FAIL.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The best thing about this lobster roll was that Jackson Galaxy was a few feet away from it.
Eventually we ordered. I got a lobster roll and Jackson had salmon. Even though I’ve had a major jones for lobster for some time now I can’t tell you I tasted a single bite of my food. I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was chatting away with Jackson as if we'd known each other for years, instead of a few hours. He was kind enough to open up to me about some of the concerns in his life. I have to say it left me feeling very protective of him.
Even if there might be other equally great cat behaviorists, Jackson has our attention and because of his appeal to a wide audience, perhaps they’ll be inspired to create a cat “super highway” in their home and be more thoughtful about assuming their cat is out to get them when it could be sick or having an emotional issue. As this article was about to go to press the news came out about the ratings for Season Two: “My Cat From Hell, which features cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy tackling catastrophic cat cases, up 36% in season two” (which totally kicked the arse of the other programs on Animal Planet-hurrah!).
Jackson has the ability to help millions of cats stay in their homes and not be surrendered to shelters or abandoned to live on the streets. I wished there was something I could do to help him with this monumental task because I worried about the effects the stress has on him. He IS only human after all.
We had a lovely conversation. We didn’t only talk about cats. Jackson spoke about his future dreams for the show, for other things he hoped to achieve this year. We talked about our pasts, about weird cat problems, about cat rescue and the heartbreaking effects of compassion-fatigue. We picked at each other’s food. We made little jokes. I was happy and sad at the same time. I knew this dinner wouldn’t last forever, even if I wanted it to.
We must have sat there for a few hours, just nibbling and talking. We decided to head back up the room since I’d left my bag there. On our way out of the restaurant, one of the Chef’s stopped Jackson and asked for his photo. He was more than happy to oblige, but was a bit surprised that even in small town Connecticut, he was recognized.
A woman stepped forward to take the photo while I directed them under better lighting. Then I asked if she would take a photo of me with Jackson.
I’ve seen so many photos of Jackson posing at events with cat ladies, I had the idea to do a meme photoshopping Jackson together with all sorts of bizarre people and animals, too. But first it was my turn to join the distinguished group of “those of us who have stood next to Jackson Galaxy for a photo-op.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. At last. My moment in the sun with Jackson Galaxy.
Jackson put his arm around me and held me close and I returned the favor. Me likey! He leaned down to be nearer to my height. At 6’2” Jackson towers over me. After the woman gave me my iPhone back I showed Jackson the photo. He remarked; “I didn’t realize you were so little!” Me? Little? I was as happy as a cat with a Tickle Pickle™. Stick me with a fork, I'm done.
We went back to Jackson’s room and talked for a while longer. Jackson taunted me about his new iPad being superior to my first generation, but my iPhone is newer and has Siri and his doesn’t (so there, Jackson!). We downloaded apps and talked tech. I made him talk to my Talking Tom iPad app which repeats what you say, but it makes it sound like you just sucked on a balloon full of helium. It made me giggle. I was so happy I felt stoned.
If it hadn’t been so late, I think we could have kept talking for hours longer, but I could tell he was getting tired and I knew I shouldn’t overstay my welcome.
Jackson wanted to go to the store and didn’t have a car so I offered to drive us somewhere so he could get whatever he needed. Jackson grabbed the Room Service breakfast menu so he could place his morning order and he remarked at how much he loved room service breakfast. This is a man after my own heart, since I consider roughing it, not camping (because, hello! I am NOT a camper-ever), but staying at a hotel without room service. Jackson perused the menu, pondering what to get. I told him to get some apple juice since his tummy had been troubling him from the stress of the recent trip. He liked my idea then added a few other items. He kept looking at me oddly, challenging me that I ever lived in Minnesota. With his musician's ear he found my accent rather odd, something I never realized. It wasn't midwestern twang per se, but it wasn't clearly the nasal quality of a New York accent, either. He felt sure I must have lived in Chicago for a time, but I promised I had only visited there and that maybe my accent was a blend of Minnesotan and New York which would put me sort of into the Chicago area? I enjoyed the fact that he seemed to be puzzled by me. Of course, to me, I don't sound like I have an accent at all.
He was so tired I helped him remember his room number to complete the order. He got his jacket on and hung the menu on the door to be picked up later that night by the room service staff. He paused for a moment. I could tell he was so tired he needed help thinking again, so I said; “room key?” He checked and yes he had it. “Wallet?” Check. “Okay, let’s go.”
It felt so familiar to me to do this, as if we’d been traveling together before. Before we left the room, I took a look back and scanned the space, committing it to memory. There was Jackson’s suitcase. There was Jackson’s Mac Book Pro sitting on Jackson’s bed. There was Jackson’s new HD iPad sitting on the table, across from the flat screen TV. There was no sign of the guitar case with the cat eyes painted onto it, but I didn't expect to see it, either.Here I was, about to leave, the night almost over, as he pulled the door closed behind us.
I asked the young woman at the Front Desk where we could go to pick up a few snacks. She gave us the WORST directions in the universe. Good thing I basically knew where to go. Jackson was so sweet. As we were leaving the Inn he said; “Not to be mean or anything, but didn’t she seem matronlly? She’s so young to be acting so old.” I agreed. It made me sad. I hoped she was happier away from work. Maybe it was a Connecticut-thing for a twenty-something year old girl to be acting like…someone my age!? (Hey, at least I act young!)
Then I realized, wow, Jackson Galaxy is going to ride in my car! Precious cargo! I’d have to put a plaque on the passenger seat and prevent anyone from changing the position of it ever again.
We went outside. It was [censored] cold and windy. My car was parked a short distance from the lobby. Jackson teased me that I parked too far away. He oogled my old car and told me to “own it” and not be shy that I drive a BMW (that is 12 years old!). He teased me again asking what midget was in the car before him, when he tried to sit down and his long legs wouldn’t fit. I said that it was because there was a cat carrier on the seat a few days ago and to shut up. I can’t believe I told Jackson Galaxy to shut up, but I did.
He got his seat adjusted and I put the car into first gear. With the wind at our tail, we slipped off into the night in search of snacks.
…to be continued…