Brooklyn Man Gets Locked Up in a Nuthouse and then Loses Digs, Job, and Honey All for Attempting to Save His Friend's Cat, Rumi
"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars."
-- Jack Kerouac
From out of the file labeled "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" comes the bizarre story of forty-nine-year-old contractor Chris Muth who last month was unjustly locked up in a nuthouse for six days all because he attempted to rescue a cat that had become trapped inside the walls of his condominium in the Carroll Gardens section of south Brooklyn.
The saga began on July 7th when Muth agreed to take care of a black seven-year-old Persian and American Shorthair mix named Rumi for his friend, Yanusz Gilewicz. Frightened at being uprooted from his home and subsequently marooned in unfamiliar surroundings, the cat bolted and fell through a hole underneath the bathroom sink.
With the cat trapped thirty-feet below in a narrow shaft, Muth enlarged the hole but was still unable to reach Rumi. (See photo above of him with Rumi and the one below of him and some of his handiwork.)
Muth next sought and received permission from building superintendent Doug Steiner to enter an adjoining apartment and to drill another hole in the wall. When that proved to be unsuccessful, he drilled several more holes which quickly drew Steiner's ire.
"'What the hell are you doing? The owner's going to flip out'," Steiner reportedly told Muth according to the July 25th edition of the New York Post. (See "Krazy Kat Got Me Kommitted.")
Undeterred, Muth entered a third unit and started knocking holes in the walls which caused Steiner to blow his gasket. He telephoned the cops and they carted Muth away to Long Island College Hospital in nearby Cobble Hill where he was held for observation in the psychiatric ward for six days.
Obviously not being cat-lovers themselves, the shrinks could not believe that anyone would go to all that trouble just to rescue a cat and consequently they dismissed Muth as a crackpot. "He has the bizarre delusion that he was trying to save a cat of his friend," medical records obtained by The Brooklyn Paper on July 24th disclosed. (See "Trapped Cat Drives Man to Psych Ward.")
While Muth was confined to the nuthouse, Rumi remained trapped inside the walls of the former house of God that was being converted into apartments for the affluent. Animal Care and Control (ACC) was finally prevailed upon to intervene but their rescue efforts were allegedly hampered by kindhearted neighbors who were dropping food down the shaft to the starving cat.
"Because he wasn't too hungry, it wasn't really enticing for him to go into the devices we had lowered down there," ACA's Mike Pastore told The Brooklyn Paper in the article cited supra.
Perseverance finally paid off, however, and Rumi wandered into a lasso dangled by ACA on July 21st. The cat, who is named after a famous thirteenth century Persian poet, emerged from his fifteen days of solitary confinement hungry, thirsty, and dirty but otherwise in good shape except for a minor respiratory ailment.
"I knew he'd survive," Gilewicz said confidently to The Brooklyn Paper. "This cat is a fighter."
Rumi's hellish ordeal was now over but for Muth his travails were only beginning. In fact, the heartless Steiner could not even wait until he got out of the nuthouse before evicting him from his condo.
"'You're a nice guy, but you're too exciting and we're going to have to ask you to leave'," Steiner reportedly told Muth according to the New York Post's July 26th edition. (See "Feline's Fine -- Not Him.") Moreover, the treacherous Steiner would not even allow him to return for his personal belongings but instead cleaned out his apartment and gave them to his girlfriend for safekeeping.
One of the most distasteful things about living in Gotham is that it is chock-full of two-faced, back-stabbing sidewinders like Steiner. If it is in their interest to be cooperative, New Yorkers can be decent enough blokes but their interests and temperaments can change in a New York minute and suddenly Dr. Jekyll is now Mr. Hyde. Denizens of the sprawling metropolis have elevated cutthroat and underhanded behavior to an art form that would turn even Cesare Borgia green with envy.
Not about to be outdone, his employer also gave him the boot. "I lost a five-thousand-dollar job with a contractor who said, 'You should have shot the cat, left it there and come to work'," Muth related to the Post in the July 26th article cited supra.
Of all the inhumane and asinine utterances ever made by ailurophobes that has to rank at the top of the pile. Not only is it illegal to discharge a firearm within the city limits, but to fire blindly through a hole in the floor is just plain moronic. Since Long Island College Hospital is so hungry for business it should ask Muth for this guy's name and then go after him.
If losing his job and being evicted were not punishment enough for his good deeds, his girlfriend, Marianne Young, also has given him the Bill Bailey treatment by tossing out both him and his belongings. "His optimism approached delusion," she kvetched to the Post. "He's hypermanic. I was the one who did the right thing by calling Animal Control. They are the real heroes."
At least Rumi's grateful owner is sticking by his friend. "I feel terrible for him," Gilewicz told the Post on July 26th.
Although saving Rumi has been a costly experience, Muth does not have any regrets. "Was going into the apartment and making holes a bad idea? I don't think so," he told The Brooklyn Paper. "I can fix holes, but I can't bring a cat back to life."
Upon reflection, he does concede however that if he had known that rescuing Rumi was going to get him into so much trouble he might have found another way of getting him out. In the beginning, he did attempt to interest the fire and police departments in Rumi's plight but both declined to help.
That certainly is out of character for a city where the uniformed services and humane groups generally go out of their way in order to rescue cats. (See Cat Defender posts of March 7, 2008 and April 20, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Georgia Is Found Safe and Sound After Spending a Harrowing Twenty-Five Days Lost in the Bowels of the New York City Subway System" and "Molly Is Finally Rescued After Spending Two-Weeks Trapped Inside the Walls of an English Deli in Greenwich Village.")
Nonetheless, this case raises some disturbing questions about the conduct of not only the police and fire departments but ACA as well. If any of those agencies had responded in a timely manner to Muth's entreaties, Rumi could have been promptly rescued and he would not have been put through his ordeal.
The individuals running the psychiatric ward at Long Island College Hospital should not be allowed to escape censor either. In fact, a prima facie case could be made that anyone who would lock up a man for attempting to save the life of a cat in extremis is in need of institutionalization themselves.
As for those who stubbornly insist that Muth is off his rocker, it could be countered that the world needs more caring individuals like him regardless of their mental stability. "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars," Jack Kerouac wrote in On the Road. Or, as Roger Waters once wrote about Syd Barrett, "Shine on, you crazy diamond."
On a more practical level, finding new digs in the Big Apple can be a daunting task unless one is as rich as Croesus. A man of Muth's talents should not, however, encounter too many difficulties in finding work.
As far as his former girlfriend is concerned, he is better off without her. Besides, it is doubtful that he will be lacking in female companionship now that he is famous.
Au contraire, he will more likely than not be forced to carry a stick in order to beat off the women. The only dicey part will be in finding one with enough moola so as to be too proud in order to allow her man to work for a living.
Paul Klusman and T.J. Wingard, a pair of aerospace engineers from Wichita, most defintely have not experienced any shortage of female admirers since their wildly successful video entitled "An Engineer's Guide to Cats" appeared on YouTube back in February. (See photo above of Klusman with Zoey, Wingard with Ginger, and Oscar in the foreground.)
Not only have they received a slew of marriage proposals from around the world but some "extremely interesting" photographs as well. (See Kansas City Star, June 20, 2008, "Wichita Yodeling Cats a YouTube Sensation.")
There is a certain je ne sais quoi about a cat man that seems to drive the women wild. Furthermore, it is generally conceded that caring for a cat is a good primer on how to talk to and treat a woman.
Photos: Ben Muessig of The Brooklyn Paper (Muth and Rumi), Gregory P. Mango of the New York Post (Muth on ladder), and the Associated Press (Klusman and Wingard with cats.)