STRAND spotlight

By Liz McLeod
Again Your House Manager
“Certainly not!” demurred Miss Carol T. Cat. “Take that vile bolus away! I’ll not play willing subject to your bizarre experimentation!”
My eyes rolled until my optic nerves grew tight, like a rubber band, and spun them back around again. It’s a pretty weird effect, now that I think of it, but I’ll spare you the visuals. You see enough creepy stuff on the Internet not to have to deal with that. Suffice it then to say that my eyes did, in fact roll.
“Look,” I insisted. “You gotta take this pill. The vet said you’ve got the most extreme case of hyperthyroid she’s ever seen.”
“As in all things,” sniffed Miss Carol, “my accomplishments stand in stark superiority to those of lesser beings. Update my Wikipedia profile at once to reflect this new achievement.”
“It’s not funny,” I retorted. “It’s why you’ve been losing all this weight, and why no matter how much I feed you you’re still hungry. If you don’t take the medication, things will get even worse. Much, much worse. As it is, I can’t call you a ‘ridiculous fat barrel cat' anymore. You’re down to less than ten pounds!”
“My svelte new look is the envy of all,” Miss Carol responded with a deft toss of her head. “You would profit by my example.”
“Just take the pill,” I growled. “It’s yummy! Look! Methimazole! Mmmmmmm, good!”
“Nonsense,” Miss Carol snapped back. “It is not, in fact, ‘mmmmmmm good.’ I recommend you examine its pharmacological profile, and you will there learn it possesses a bitter, unpleasant flavor. Hence the dubious deception of coating it in a villainously-colored orange sugar shell. I, however, am not deceived. Take it away.”
I sighed. It’s been a hard week. You know how cats are. And if you don’t know how cats are, you’ll find out this weekend at the Strand – where we’re proud to present our annual screening of the Cat Video Film Festival! You’ve got two chances to enjoy the very best in zany feline antics compiled from the internet, Saturday and Sunday at 3PM. And the screenings will benefit the Pope Memorial Animal Shelter, which, a decade ago this month, matched me up with a skeptical young feral cat from Searsmont who had decided she preferred the indoor life to fending for herself in the woods. And we hope when you come see this show you’ll think of Miss Carol, and send good wishes her way as she deals as best she can with her present health problems.
“Hmph!” Miss Carol sneered as her way of coping. “The problem, here, is with your feeble attempts to force-feed me those repellent tablets. Of course you know I shan’t permit it.”
“Yeah, I’m an idiot,” I agreed, placing a bowl full of turkey in rich savory gravy on the floor. “I don’t know what came over me.”
Miss Carol, her appetite overstimulated by her medical condition, inhaled the meal with a sound not unlike that of your mother’s old Electrolux.  “A very satisfactory gustatory experience,” she proclaimed, licking her lips with ostentation. “My commendations on a well-prepared dish."
“It’s my secret ingredient,” I winked. And just like that, there was one less little orange pill in the bottle.
By Liz McLeod
Again Your House Manager
“Certainly not!” declared Miss Carol T. Cat. “The very idea is out of the question!”
“Look,” I replied, resigned to repeating the arguments I’d been making for the past hour. “You have to do this. You know you have to do this. And the sooner we get it done, the sooner it’s over!”
“What you request is outrageous!” she roared back. “Monstrous! I know my inviolable rights! You cannot, you will not enforce your will upon me. I am my OWN cat.”
I closed my eyes and shook my head. Or my head shook itself. I’m so tired right now every other part of my body is shaking, the head might just as well join in. “Look,” I sighed. “Look at the facts. Clearly there’s something going on. Since June, you’ve lost – well, a bunch of weight.  Look at yourself if you don’t believe me.”
“Nonsense,” Miss Carol snorted. “A mere redistribution of assets. And besides,” she further snorted, with a particular snort aimed straight at me, “you are jealous! A glance at the mirror will prove the truth of my statement!”
“But you shouldn’t be losin’ weight at all,” I snapped back, “with all the food you’re eating. Look at that pile of empty cans!”
“I have intended to call those cans to your attention. Remove them at once, I find them unsightly. And refill my bowl.”
“Four cans a day, and you’re losing weight? And you don’t see the problem?”
“I have also intended to call to your attention the shoddy nutritional quality of my meals. I advise that you review my feeding standards. As you know, a Canada Lynx requires over two and one-half pounds of food per day.”
“You’re not a Canada Lynx.”
“The question of my citizenship is irrelevant. I have relatives in Montreal. Away with you, and bring my meal at once.”
And so on it went, into the night. Miss Carol’s troubling weight loss is reason enough for her to require a visit to the vet. But like any self-respecting felid, she doesn’t want to go. And so it falls to me to see that she goes.
Sounds a lot like the world right now, doesn’t it? We’ve all got to do things we don’t necessarily want to do for the sake of what needs to be done – for our own health, and the health of others. Sometimes that means wearing a mask even when it makes us uncomfortable, sometimes it means getting a shot when we don’t like to get shots, and sometimes it means riding in a ventilated plastic box in a bumpy car to see the vet.
See, when you put it like that, what we humans have to do doesn’t sound that bad, does it?
Miss Carol will see the vet on Friday, and I’m sure she’ll want to tell you all about how it went. If you don’t hear from me, well, I may just be waiting for the swelling from the scratches to go down…

By Liz McLeod

Again Your House Manager


“AH-CHOOOOOO!” I ah-chooed as I lurched into the kitchen, tossing my jacket in the direction of nothing in particular. It was late, and who’s gonna know? The force of my sneeze stretched the elastics of my mask outward, and I winced as the recoil snapped it back against my face.

Miss Carol T. Cat reacted with dismay at my sudden forcible sternutation. “Cease that at once,” she commanded. “I am, as you know, vulnerable to airborne contaminants. You shall undergo full testing immediately to ensure that you have not brought contagion into our home.”

“Put a can on it,”  I growled. “You know I don’t have anything contagious. It’s allergy season, and the ragweed’s all in bloom. That vacant lot out behind the fence is a menace to respiration. Where’s my gas mask?”

“Nevertheless,” declared Miss Carol, “precautions are in order. Recall the recent news item concerning a snow leopard who became infected recently due to pathogens carried by those who came to pay him obeisance. Until a felid vaccine is fully available, I require you to maintain full sanitary protocols. Disinfect my food bowl at once, and bring my late-evening meal.”

I sighed. I thought we were thru all this, you know? I thought things were getting better. I thought the pandemic was pretty much over. And now, well, you know what’s going on. Miss Carol’s got the right idea though – better safe than sorry. That’s why we’re now requiring Strand patrons to keep their masks on for the duration of their visits, except when eating or drinking, to provide that extra layer of protection that will keep things from getting worse. Like Miss Carol, you know, not everyone who wants to be vaccinated can be, not yet. And we don’t even know everything there is to know yet about the new Delta variant. So doesn’t it make good sense to be extra careful? Miss Carol certainly thinks so, and we do too. We’re of course still keeping up with our enhanced cleaning and air-filtering protocols at the theatre, and are limiting attendance at each movie show to 100 persons, ensuring there’s plenty of room to maintain social distance, and with the amended masking requirements we’re taking the responsible steps we need to take to keep everyone safe. Nobody knows exactly how long the present situation will continue, but be assured that we’re monitoring the situation carefully to make sure we’re in line with what needs to be done. You should always keep an eye on our Strand website and social media for any updates, and the latest information will always be posted as well as in the theatre itself.

“Are you finished with your public service announcement?” interrupted Miss Carol. “I have grown twelve percent hungrier during the interval required for its delivery. Feeding will now commence.”

“AH-CHOOOOOOO!” I sneezed again, as a fresh dose of ragweed pollen found its target. This time the recoil of the mask elastic caused me to lose my grip on the can of Friskies Turkey Pate with Sauce I had just opened, and its contents landed, with a soft squish, on Miss Carol’s back. 

I mercifully draw the curtain over the rest of this scene. Her reaction was, as you can imagine, nothing to sneeze at.

By Liz McLeod

Again Your House Manager


“Whew!” I gusted as I flung my jacket in the general direction of a kitchen chair. “I need HELP!”

“Indeed,” observed Miss Carol T. Cat, gazing at my jacket as it overshot the chair and fluttered gently to the floor. “I have been aware for some time that you require considerable assistance with the basic functions of daily life. The uncouth condition of this sad shanty in which we dwell gives every indication that an intervention is necessary. Allow me to be the first to…”

“Not that kind of help,” I growled, rummaging inside the refrigerator for my customary slice of evening cheese. “I need help at the Strand!”

“As I have repeatedly advised you,” Miss Carol continued, her voice taking on just a slightly hectoring tone.

“Yeah, who is Hector, anyway,” I mumbled thru a mouthful of Kraft Single, “and why doesn’t he learn to watch his tone? I ask you. Oh wait, did I say that out loud? Sorry, it’s been a long day, and I need help.”

“AS I HAVE REPEATEDLY ADVISED YOU,” repeated Miss Carol, and this time Hector was gone, supplanted by Impatient J. Irritated. I know him pretty well too. “AS I HAVE REPEATEDLY ADVISED YOU, the installation of a qualified feline supervisor would do much to enhance theatre operations. Permit me to submit the name of a qualified candidate for this position.”

“I can’t hire a cat,” I protested, tossing the cellophane cheese wrapper in the general direction of the garbage can. Miss Carol observed as this too fluttered gently to the floor, and her frown deepened. “The Board of Health has a thing about that. I got nothing to do with it, go fight them. No, a cat won’t solve my problem, I need a person. Or two. We’re short staffed right now, and I need a couple more people to work the concession stand. Especially since we’re getting close to September, and that’s when we’re going to have a lot more demands on the operations crew. Live concerts will be coming back. The Camden International Film Festival is coming. And all sorts of other stuff is on the horizon. And not that you’d know anything about this, but help is hard to get right now.”

Miss Carol gazed, in a marked manner, at her empty food bowl, and then fixed her bright green eyes upon me in accusation. I took the hint and deployed a bowl of Turkey with Giblet Gravy pate. Miss Carol had a toothache this week, and she prefers that her meals now receive a head start, and who am I to fail to meet her needs?

But as for the Strand needs, it’s like this. As we expand out our schedule I need at least one and possibly two new people to work the concession stand. That means learning how to operate the popcorn popper and soda fountain efficiently and safely, being able to carry supplies weighing up to 35 pounds up and down the stairs to and from the storeroom to the lobby, being able to move very fast and very accurately in filling orders from patrons, and being able to clean and maintain the concession area, the lobby, and the theatre auditorium, in accord with Covid-safe policies before, during, and after shows. It’ll usually run between 5 and 10 hours a week at $13 an hour, and you keep all your tips. Hours can start as early as 2pm and run as late as 9 PM at present, evenings and weekends required, but as we get into concerts, more hours will be available during those events. And we require that applicants be at least 17 years old so they can legally sell alcohol when we get back into doing concerts where beer and wine will be sold.  And we require reliability above all else – in show business “the show must go on” is the absolute rule, and everyone working in the theatre has a role to play in making that show happen, no matter if it’s a movie, a concert, an opera, or an educational feature. It’s a great setup for someone looking for a fun after-school job, or to build an employment history, or for someone who doesn’t like to work while sitting in a chair.

“Your recruiting pitch is irresistible,” declared Miss Carol, flicking a bit of pate to the floor, since she isn’t the one who has to bend over and clean it up, I’m just sayin’. “Were I in need of employment I should demand that you consider my application at once. But since I do not require employment at the present time, I shall permit this opportunity to be seized by one who no doubt would find it pleasant and beneficial. Altruism is a defining trait of we felids. Now, remove that debris from the floor at once, before it attracts flies.”

“Ridiculous fat barrel cat.”

Miss Carol scowled. “You will receive poor Glassdoor reviews with such an attitude. I suggest that you comply with my request immediately, thereby setting a positive example for your future hires.”

Like I said. I need help.

By Liz McLeod

Again Your House Manager


“The time has come,” declared Miss Carol T. Cat, “to discuss the future.”

I rolled over in bed, squinted, failed to make out the hands of the clock in the pre-dawn gloom, and strongly disagreed with Miss Carol’s expressed opinion.

“Nevertheless,” Miss Carol continued, sinking her claws into my cheek for emphasis, “the time has come. I have prepared a number of suggestions for future theatre program which you will no doubt find stimulating.”

“I don’t do programming,” I moaned, attempting to release claws from cheek. “I can’t even program you. Leemeelone an’ lemmesleep.”

“I have reviewed the Strand Theatre’s programming since reopening,” she continued, “and I find much worthy of praise. "In The Heights" and "Summer of Soul" brought the joy of music to a populace weary from months of pandemic ennui. These programming selections are to be commended. I also found “Dream Horse” to have been a heartwarming and wholesome motion picture experience – but with one significant shortcoming.”

I knew what was coming, and, since I lay flat on my back with a large, ferocious felid atop my chest, I was in no position to protest.

“There were, in that film,” she continued, in a voice almost as sharp as the claw now shifted to a place just northeast of my jugular vein, “a number of species depicted. Equines were of course, prominently featured – but conspicuous by their absence were felines. Do you have an explanation for this?”

“Cats don’t race,” I mumbled. “They hardly even move. Except at 4 in the morning.”

“I find, in fact, that none of the motion pictures featured at the Strand over the past month have in any way featured felines. I find this unacceptable, and I direct you to take steps to remedy this shortcoming at once. To aid you in accomplishing this goal, have prepared a series of selections for consideration.”

I groaned, because what else can I do?

“Number One. ‘Cat People.’ I imagine that a motion picture depicting hew-mons happy in their service to their feline supervisors would prove quite successful with your patrons.”

“We showed that in 2005,” I sighed.   “It’s not about that at all. It’s a horror picture. You wouldn’t like it. Cats don’t come off too well.”

“Hmph,” growled Miss Carol. “Then I direct that you have all existing prints collected and burned at once. Such propaganda can only harm feline/hew-mon relations. In any event, consider then selection number 2. ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.’ As all felines know, much rest and relaxation can be obtained upon a comfortably-heated surface, and doubtless the film would prove educational for hew-mons desiring to provide their supervisors with a pleasant and edifying home environment.”

“That’s not what it’s about,” I moaned. “It’s – well, never mind what it’s about. There’s no cats actually in it."

“Then I direct that you file litigation at once against the producers of this sham for false and misleading advertising. Such practices delude the patron and degrade the profession.”

“Look,” I exhaled, attempting to sit up. “We’ve got a lot of great stuff coming up in the weeks ahead that everyone is really sure to like, OK? Our next film is a documentary about the life and career of Anthony Bourdain. It’s produced by Morgan Neville, the same filmmaker responsible for that Mr. Rogers documentary a few years back, OK? So you know it’s going to be interesting, illuminating, and memorable. And then after that we’ve got a really interesting science documentary about the search for a previously-unknown species of whale identified only by its call.”

“I approve of films dealing with aquatic creatures,” declared Miss Carol. “I find them most flavorful. I would suggest, however, that a film dealing with a large yellowfin tuna may prove to be more to my taste. Preferably served with a rich, savory sauce.”

“Look,” I began, but my pointed reply slipped away like a blanket on a hot night.

“Upcoming film choices are satisfactory,” Miss Carol continued. “I shall await your report on patron response to these features with great interest. However, I call to your attention a film released in 2019 that I recommend for consideration. It is entitled, with gracious simplicity, “CATS.”


By Liz McLeod
Again Your House Manager
“These climactic oscillations must end!” roared Miss Carol T. Cat as I shuffled thru the back door. Scarcely waiting for me to toss my jacket aside, she planted herself before me, and fixed me in a steely gaze. “I AM COLD,” she declared. “COMFORT ME AT ONCE.”
“Wow,” I replied. “Not even food first. You really *must* be cold.” I dropped my jacket over her. “Happy?” I snorted.
From beneath the jacket, I could hear a growl. “Impudent puppy!” she grumbled. “I direct that you turn on the heating system at once.”
“Now wait a minute,” I retorted. “It’s the middle of July! Turn on the furnace in the middle of July? You think I’m made of money?”
“No doubt soft currency,” sneered Miss Carol, not so chilled that her wit was dulled, “if the sponginess of your middle avoirdupois provides any indication.”
I disregarded the thrust. “Don’t worry about it,” I replied, reaching inside the refrigerator for my lavish supper of the evening, three slices of cheese. “Tomorrow it’s s’posed to be hot again. Gonna get back up into the 80s, an’ we’ll be back in the 90s again before you know it.”
“Monstrous!” hissed Miss Carol, making no effort to emerge from beneath the jacket. It’s a very comfortable jacket, after all, and what is a cat if not an eternal seeker of comfort? “I direct that you make preparations for this intolerable heat wave at once. Prepare several cold, wet washcloths with which you may gently soothe me as I struggle with the heat. Or, alternately, purchase adequate home air conditioning for this stagnant hovel.”
We’d been over the “whatta you think I am,  made of money?” schtick before, so I let that one pass. But I did pause to reflect on how fortunate we are at the Strand to have such an impressive air-conditioning and air-exchanging system.  During the worst of any heat wave, you know that when you visit us at the Strand you’ll be relaxing in solid comfort for the entire duration of your visit. And especially since the upgrade of our temperature control module, you’ll notice that conditions are much more level than they used to be. We all remember the days when veteran Strand patrons knew to bring along a sweater on hot days, because the old control system tended at times to overcompensate –but our new module maintains the theatre temperature much more evenly. There are fewer “cold spots” in the house than there used to be, and while it’s still a bit warmer in the balcony than it is on the main floor, the difference is usually less pronounced.  We’re happy that we were, thanks to the outstanding community support of our members and donors, able to pay for the not-insubstantial cost of this long-deferred upgrade project, and we know you’re going to enjoy it as well – not just to ease your concerns about air quality during the pandemic, but as a permanent, long-term improvement designed to enhance your every visit to our theatre.
Just don’t expect me, though, to come around to gently soothe you with a damp washcloth on a hot day. I regret that I must reserve that level of service only for Ridiculous Fat Barrel Cats.
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