340 South Roxbury Drive


me and my mom at our beach house

In our family, life is six degrees of feline separation.

I often tell people I was meant to grow up in Malibu.  That is where we lived — right on the beach – but my mom’s cat Jezebel was killed by a car, and that incident turned my life around.

My mother decided it wasn’t safe on the highway (PCH) and we moved to the house on Roxbury Drive, Beverly Hills.  The year was 1955.   The former owners sold it to us with one perfect provision: the cat comes with the house.  What are the chances of this?  We move because a cat gets killed and instantly we have this new one.  Hangover, who came with his name, was a rather large, slightly feral black & white street boy.  The name, in the lore of our family (and from what the previous owners told us), came from this big-ass cat’s habit of hanging over the sides of trees that he climbed.  He was not a drunk.  He was really frisky, almost unsafe for a small child.

Hangover the cat!!!

On days when I was sick at home, Sheriff John would be playing on the TV, but I wouldn’t be watching — because I was too busy forcing Hangover’s paws to crayon  pictures with me getting scratched by the real leader of our family.  He kept me/us in line.  He was also the first creature I would love.

When we moved into our big Spanish Beverly Hills home (not as big as north of the tracks, but WAY big enough for us), the former owners told us they never knew how old the cat was.  My dad warned that we’d better get used to the fact that he could die at any time because we didn’t know his age.  The thought of this would just freak me out, not only because I didn’t want to lose Hangy the cat, but because my dad was an older dad.  So, the same fear applied to him too.  I would pray to my secret God (we were not religious): Please God, don’t let my father or cat die.  I would beg for three more years – which seemed like an eternity — and as they passed, added on another three years.

Hangover watched us grow up.  He was there when my brother graduated from Little to Pony League, there when I had makeout parties in the basement.  Hangover watched from the vantage point of his tree as Alan and I got our first cars at age 16.

One time, my mother adopted some Siamese cats that someone couldn’t take care of anymore.  My mother was way ahead of her time; adopting animals, militant about getting them fixed, never wearing fur.  The cats came with papers and fancy names from the breeder: Rupas Holiday, a frost point, and Rupas Krishna, a chocolate point.  Holly and Krissy.  Think, “We are Siamese if you please…” They were magical for me in my quiet world.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

papers for Holiday and Krishna

My mother grew up on a farm with lots of animals, wild and domestic.  This was the closest she would ever get to that life again.  Except for those long rides through the Malibu hills when my parents, in the front seat, would point to properties they “might” buy so we could have horses and all kinds of animals that would make us happy.  (May I warn you parents out there doing this, fantasizing out loud in front of your kids, “we” are susceptible and buy into it.)  I would envision it all.  Life on the Malibu Hills Ranch.  Tons of wild creatures to love and care for.   We were raised to be animal lovers and animal lovers we remain.

My praying had worked — or (rare) my dad, the sage, was wrong.  By the time Hangover went missing, I was a senior in high school and had long adapted to the fact that my cat would one day die.  At the end, he would lay on the back steps with flies all over him because he was too frail to shake them off.  He looked like those animals you see in India or Africa, a sorry sight.  And when finally, we didn’t see our Hangy around, I accused my mom of euthanizing him.  She insisted she didn’t.

Hangover had a pretty good and long life.  I only had to renegotiate that deal with God about five times.  And then some years later, when my mother sold the Roxbury place, she found his bones under the house in the spot where he’d presumably gone to die.

My and Alan’s love for Hangover shaped and defined us.  So much so, that now our children, especially Augie (my daughter) and Erica (my niece) are burdened with that feline obsession.

Thank God for pussy!!!!  You didn’t really think I would do a whole story about cats and not use that word, did you? 


Erica Duke and the frisky Buster

When I was home sick my  mother would trick out a can of tomato soup, making it creamy and delicious.  Here is a recipe I found that might duplicate that taste.

Rich and Creamy Tomato Basil Soup Recipe

4 tomatoes – peeled, seeded and diced
4 cups tomato juice
14 leaves fresh basil
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

Place tomatoes and juice in a stock pot over medium heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Puree the tomato mixture along with the basil leaves, and return the puree to the stock pot.
Place the pot over medium heat, and stir in the heavy cream and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Do not boil.

Augie Duke with her rescue kittenErica Duke and her frisky boy Buster

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “340 South Roxbury Drive”

  1. Julie Phalen says:

    Another great story from your childhood. Thank you!

  2. robin says:

    I want some of that tomatoe soup right now.
    another sweet story with a sweet perspective.
    love praying for 3 years over and over….xxxxx

  3. mitch says:

    Great story, Fredde. Somewhere in the backyard of the house I grew up in the bones of my pet guinea pig are fertilizing someone’s tangerine tree. Thousands of years from now, when archeologists get to work on what was once Beverly Hills, they’ll marvel at the variety of small critters they’ll find.

  4. Augie Duke says:

    I just read this, don’t hate me for being so late on it. But i love this, so sweet mom. We just love our animals and our cat’s 🙂

  5. I am late in reading this although so happy I did. I loved this story. And I’m not easy. Ask Maya.

Leave a Reply