Stone-Broke, Homeless, and All Alone at the Crossroads of the World, Disaster Is Snatched from Harm's Way by a Representative of the Walking Dead
|Disaster and Jeremy Zelkowitz|
"It (Disaster) was really, really scared. He was, like, looking around at the sirens and stuff.""From Times Square to Columbus Circle, it's the gaudiest, the most violent, the lonesomest mile in the world. It's Broadway, my beat." That is how fictional police lieutenant Danny Clover began and ended each episode of the stellar 1950's radio drama, Broadway Is My Beat.
-- Jeremy Zelkowitz
Times Square has changed a great deal over the course of the past sixty years but probably not enough in order to significantly alter Clover's world-weary assessment of it. Even back then it was a no man's land for cats and that is even truer today as a five-year-old castrated black and white tom named Disaster recently found out firsthand.
Owing to reason and circumstances that likely never either will be known or fully understood, the former Woodmere, Long Island, resident found himself dodging both motorists and pedestrians early Easter morning in jam-packed Times Square. Under such perilous conditions his life expectancy could have been measured in seconds.
Regardless of whatever else can be said about New York City, it certainly attracts a wide assortment of people. With human nature being what it is, most of them are really bad individuals, but that is far from being the entire story.
The bright lights that shine down on Broadway also attract their fair share of noble and kindhearted souls and heartwarming acts of altruism magically can materialize from the most unexpected quarters. In Disaster's case, his savior was, of all things, a zombie.
Not an actual card-carrying member of the fraternity of the walking dead, but rather twenty-two-year-old Jeremy Zelkowitz of Coney Island in Brooklyn who earns his daily bread by dressing as one in order to lure promenaders into visiting the Times Scare Hotel of Horrors. Located at 669 Eighth Avenue and directly across the street from another long-running Manhattan horror show, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, it is a combination haunted house, bar, cafe, and disco that operates year-round.
Times Square was cleaned up back in the 1990's and the whorehouses, peep show parlors, fleabag hotels, and greasy spoons are now largely a thing of the past. Gone too are the disheveled, disease-carrying streetwalkers, their equally repulsive pimps, the dope dealers, muggers, chain snatchers, and two-dollar horse players.
Upscale restaurants, clubs, and various tourist traps have transformed the district to such an extent that even Damon Runyon would have difficulty recognizing it if he were still alive and prowling its alleyways in search of its oddballs and eccentrics that he later would immortalize in his unforgettable short stories. Despite all of these improvements, Zelkowitz's job at the crossroads of the world is anything but a piece of cake in that he is forced to work outrageous hours and in the elements as well.
Thankfully, he not only was there for Disaster in his hour of greatest need but did not hesitate to intervene even at the risk of being injured himself. That is considerably more than can be said for the numerous businesses in the area that cruelly gave him the bum's rush whenever he sought sanctuary within their portals.
"I almost got hit by a car," Zelkowitz later confided to ABC News on April 6th. (See "Zombie Finds Cat in Times Square after Two Years Lost, Reunited with New York Police Officer Owner.") "I spoke to people who had seen it earlier trying to get into Dallas BBQ and Starbucks and a whole bunch of stores on Forty-Second (Street)."
In the midst of the swirling ball of confusion that defines Times Square, Zelkowitz somehow was able to chase down and corral Disaster without either getting him killed or being killed himself. "There were a lot of looks, but I'm used to it," he told the New York Daily News on April 5th. (See "Times Square Zombie Finds Cat That Cop Lost Two Years Ago.") "It was a black cat, so some people looked kind of freaked out."
Every bit as amazing, he somehow was able to hold onto Disaster who by this time no doubt was frightened out of his wits. "It was really, really scared," Zelkowitz told ABC News. "He was, like, looking around at the sirens and stuff."
Sensing that Disaster possibly might be in need of veterinary attention, Zelkowitz hailed a taxi and transported him to BluePearl Veterinary Partners at 410 West 55th Street which, fortunately, operates an all-night emergency clinic. Once there, he apparently had an uphill battle in convincing the Tampa-based veterinary chain, which operates surgeries in twelve states, that he was serious and wanted the cat treated.
"I told them right away, 'Look, I'm not crazy. I work at the haunted house'," he related to the Daily News.
Press reports have not broached the subject, but money likely was the sticking point because only rarely will veterinarians treat sick and injured animals out of the goodness of their moneygrubbing, black hearts. That is even more so the case with veterinary chains as opposed to lone wolf practitioners.
Consequently, it is a good bet that Zelkowitz was forced to pony up for Disaster's treatment in advance and that makes his heroism all the more commendable. Not many individuals are willing to go that far although Hannelore and Erich B. of München gladly shelled out €197 in order to have Mausi, a homeless cat that they rescued on the Autobahn, treated. (See Cat Defender post of March 16, 2013 entitled "Mausi Is Saved from a Potentially Violent Death on the Fast and Furious Autobahn Thanks to the Dramatic Intervention of a Münchner Couple.")
"I dress as a zombie every day and I just love animals," is how Zelkowitz explained his motivation for saving Disaster to the Daily News in the article cited supra. "I try to do the right thing."
It also helped that cats are not on the menu at the Times Scare Hotel of Horrors. "I usually only eat human brains," Zelkowitz added tongue in cheek to ABC News. "I'm not fond of any cat brains."
In spite of all that he had been put through, Disaster was in remarkably good condition with the exception of an infected right ear. Never-theless, if his deliverance had not come when it did, this story very well could have had an altogether different denouement.
The greatest menace that footloose cats like Disaster face in a city like New York comes from motorists and in that light he easily could have succumbed to the same cruel fate that in 2006 befell Brooklyn's famous undercover cat, Fred. (See Cat Defender posts of February 14, 2006 and August 17, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Special Agent Fred the Cat Goes Undercover to Help Nab Quack Vet in Brooklyn Sting Operation" and "Brave Little Fred the Undercover Cat Has His Short, Tragic Life Snuffed Out by a Hit-and-Run Driver in Queens.")
Disaster's life likewise easily could have been transformed into an unmitigated Hell if he either had been abandoned or unwittingly stumbled into the city labyrinthine subway system. That is precisely what happened to a seven-month-old cat named Georgia who was forced to spend twenty-five days underground back in 2008 before finally being brought out alive. (See Cat Defender post of March 7, 2008 entitled " Georgia Is Found Safe and Sound after Spending a Harrowing Twenty-Five Days Lost in the Bowels of the New York City Subway System.")
Even if Disaster somehow had managed to get by on his own, sooner or later an ailurophobe would have ratted him out to Animal Care and Control and that surely would have been the end of him. (See Cat Defender post of November 5, 2007 entitled "Port Authority Gives JFK's Long-Term Resident Felines the Boot and Rescue Groups Are Too Impotent to Save Them.")
PETA also has its death squads combing the five boroughs of the city and elsewhere night and day in search of cats to round up and liquidate. (See PETA. org, May 25, 2012, "Starving Cat Saved from Filthy Dumpster" and Cat Defender post of October 7, 2011 entitled "PETA Traps and Kills a Cat and Then Shamelessly Goes Online in Order to Brag about Its Criminal and Foul Deed.")
He additionally could have been done in by either an unprincipled TNR practitioner, such as Paul Zhang, or a totally unconscionable veterinarian. (See Cat Defender post of December 22, 2011 entitled "Rogue TNR Practitioner and Three Unscrupulous Veterinarians Kill at Least Sixty-Two Cats with the Complicity of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals.")
As if all of that were not enough to worry about, he could have been eaten at almost any moment by any one of a number of raptors that have taken up residence in Manhattan and elsewhere in the city. (See Cat Defender post of August 1, 2011 entitled "Eddie Is Saved by an Outdoor Umbrella after He Is Abducted from the Balcony of His Manhattan Apartment and Then Dropped by a Redtailed Hawk.")
In the process of attending to Disaster, the veterinarians at BluePearl discovered an implanted microchip and that revealed both a big surprise as well as a Chinese puzzle. Specifically, the chip led to the disclosure that he had disappeared from Jimmy Helliesen's house in Woodmere two years earlier.
During his twenty-nine years as a New York City cop Helliesen has received many shocks and surprises but he hardly was prepared for the telephone call that he got from BluePearl. "He couldn't believe it and thought we were playing a practical joke on him," the surgery's Steve Baker related to the Daily News.
|Disaster and Jimmy Helliesen|
"I was shocked," Helliesen later confirmed to Alabama.com on April 4th. (See "New York City 'Zombie' Finds Long Island Cat in Times Square.") "How did he get to Manhattan? That's quite an adventure."
From all indications, Disaster apparently still recognized Helliesen despite their long separation. "He's friendly," the latter told the Daily News. "When I got him home, he jumped up in my lap."
Helliesen also was impressed by his prodigal moggy's good health. "He looked pretty good," he told ABC News. "Eating at all those restaurants (I suppose)."
Sadly, Disaster's homecoming was destined to be an exceedingly brief one in that Helliesen immediately put him up for adoption. Since no further stories have appeared in the press concerning him, it is not known what has become of the intrepid little fellow.
Helliesen, who works out of the Seventy-Ninth Precinct in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, rescues homeless cats from the street and did have eight other cats. That most likely was the primary reason behind his relinquishment of not only Disaster but a trio of cats named Tom, Dick, and Harry.
A desire to maintain spousal harmony likely also factored somewhere into the equation. "My wife has been very understanding," he confided to Alabama. com in the article cited supra.
Disaster, whose name is derived from the Seventy-Ninth Precinct's unofficial motto, "flirting with disaster," also simply may have worn out his welcome at Helliesen's house in that this was the second time that he had absconded. Absence, after all, does not always serve to make the heart grow more fonder.
None of that in any way explains how he made it from Woodmere to Manhattan. With the roughly forty kilometers of streets that separate the two communities being so congested there simply is not any conceivable way that he could have hoofed it.
Moreover, Manhattan has precious little that ever would interest any cat. Helliesen's suggestion to ABC News that he was attracted by "the pull of the bright lights and the big city" therefore can be safely dismissed as a joke.
The most plausible explanation is that he was picked up off the streets of Woodmere by someone who transported him to Manhattan. He then later escaped from his new home and wound up roaming the mean thoroughfares of Times Square.
His good health coupled with the dangers associated with ruffing it in Manhattan tend to suggest that he had been homeless for only a very brief period of time. Even under such a scenario it is odd that his caretaker in Manhattan did not come forward in order to reclaim him in spite of the enormous amount of publicity generated by his rescue. That also would tend to suggest that he could have been deliberately dumped in the street.
It also is remotely conceivable that he could have reached Manhattan as an unwitting stowaway in either a moving van, train, or parcel post. That would not explain, however, where he has been living for the past two years unless he immediately was rescued upon his arrival in Manhattan. (See Cat Defender posts of November 6, 2006, June 7, 2007, and July 21, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Trapped in a Moving Van for Five Days, Texas Cat Named Neo is Finally Freed in Colorado," "Rascal Hops a Freight Train in South Bend and Unwittingly Winds Up in Chattanooga," and "Janosch Survives Being Sent Through the Post from Bayern to the Rhineland.")
"I wish the microchip had a camera or something," Baker or BluePearl mused to the Daily News in the article cited supra.
That is simply a terrible suggestion because precious little good ever will accrue to cats as the result of man's spying on them. For example, although Katzen-Kameras originally were invented so as to allow owners to keep tabs of their moggies' rambles, they soon were appropriated by the sworn enemies of the species at, inter alia, the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Georgia, and the University of Illinois in order to collect data on their predatory behavior as a prelude to having them exterminated.
As with all forms of surveillance, that of humans included, the power to monitor is equivalent to the power to control and the latter is synonymous with the power to destroy. (See Cat Defender posts of June 11, 2007, July 12, 2011, and July 18, 2011 entitled, respectively, "Katzen-Kameras Are Not Only Cruel and Inhumane but Represent an Assault Upon Cats' Liberties and Privacy," "The Arrest of Nico Dauphiné for Attempting to Poison a Colony of Homeless Cats Unmasks the National Zoo as a Hideout for Ailurophobes and Criminals," and "Evil Professors Have Transformed College Campuses into Hotbeds of Hatred Where Cats Routinely Are Vilified, Horribly Abused, and Systematically Killed.")
The same holds true for the decoding of the feline genome. (See Cat Defender post of December 5, 2007 entitled "Decoding the Feline Genome Provides Vivisectors with Thousands of New Excuses to Continue Torturing Cats in the Course of Their Bogus Research.")
Anyone who has spent any amount time in Manhattan surely must have noticed the total absence of cats. Dogs are everywhere but cats are completely missing from the urban landscape. The American Bird Conservancy with its perverse and cruel cats indoors agenda surely must regard the borough as heaven on earth.
Even New York's totally obnoxious mayor, Mike "Dirty Bloomers" Bloomberg, has gotten in on the bandwagon by ordering the Algonquin Hotel to confine its residential feline, Matilda III. (See Cat Defender post of December 5, 2011 entitled "The Algonquin Cruelly Responds to Threats Made by New York City by Trussing Up Matilda III and Bombarding Her with Shock Therapy.")
Imprisoning cats indoors is not only cruel and unfair to them but detrimental to society as well. In order to weave their magical spells, cats need above all to be seen.
That is the only way that they can brighten people's days and exert a calming influence over them. If Manhattan had considerably more cats and correspondingly fewer people and cars it undeniably would be a far more pleasant place in which to live and work as opposed to the teeming, cutthroat hellhole that it is today.
Their presence also serves as a reminder that there are other inhabitants of this planet that are far more beautiful, noble, and important than man and his selfish and trivial concerns. That realization sometimes is accompanied by an acknowledgement that man has a duty to safeguard the animals and Mother Earth as opposed to nakedly exploiting and subjugating them.
Regrettably, respect for them, the environment, and even their fellow citizens never has been the strong suit of most Americans. Even when they are not slaughtering and ruthlessly exploiting them, the very best that they often have to offer their fellow denizens of this planet is institutionalization.
For example, companion animals are warehoused in death camps erroneously known as shelters. Livestock are bred, reared, and unceremoniously killed without ever having had so much as an inkling that there is anything other than factory farms and abattoirs in this world. Zoos, circuses, and captive-breeding facilities likewise constitute the sum total of reality that many exotic animals ever are allowed to experience.
Large sections of humanity do not fare much better. For instance, the homeless are locked away in remote, hellish shelters that would make the workhouses of Victorian England look like palaces. The aged are confined in old folks' homes, the mentally ill in nuthouses, the poor and disobedient in prisons, and the young, volatile, and impressionable in predatory schools and universities that are run by apologists for the thoroughly corrupt establishment.
The removal of these animals and groups from all moral, political, and economic consideration leaves the field wide open for their gaolers not only to gobble up a lion's share of the world's resources but to do so with only token opposition. Plus, these self-appointed lords of the universe are allowed to cash in a second time through the operation of their spiraling web of dead-end warehouses.
In conclusion, it would be heartening to know what has become of Disaster but unless he, like the great Houdini, has another trick up his sleeve the world very well may have heard the last of him. A faint glimmer of hope does remain, however.
"He likes looking out the windows," Helliesen told ABC News in the article cited supra. "Maybe he's planning his next escape."
So, perhaps in parts unknown Disaster is at this very moment gazing forlornly out someone else's windows and just waiting for the right opportunity to present itself so that he can once again answer the siren call of the open road. Whether it be Wanderlust that burns in his precious little heart or simply boredom, it is sincerely hoped that some day he will find whatever it is that he is so desperately searching for and at long last secure the happiness that he so richly deserves.
Photos: New York Daily News (Disaster and Zelkowitz) and Danielle Finkelstein of Newsday (Disaster and Helliesen).