The backstory: Babylady is a cat. Eighteen pounds worth of a cat, and male. He has been hanging out in the north end seemingly forever; he pranced through The Coast office occasionally, but mostly hung out around Alteregos as his nominal "owner" Ward Williamson lives in an apartment above the gay bathhouse Seadogs (2199 Gottingen Street, 444-3647), next door. Babylady also managed to end up in the Company House bar across the street most nights. Everyone in the neighbourhood knows Bablylady.
"Someone gave my cat Babylady away without asking," wrote Williamson. "He was a pest to this person's cafe but she could have called the SPCA. The only thing I know about the woman who was given Babylady is that she lives in Dartmouth."
"This person" is Michelle Strum, owner of Alteregos. I regularly drop by the coffee shop for my morning fix, and have seen Babylady a gazillion times. He had a knack for sneaking into the cafe as customers opened the door, and plopping himself on a chair by the front window, falling asleep in the sun. The health inspectors were forever giving Strum grief about the cat, and so a regular ritual at the cafe was Strum grabbing Babylady and gently shooing him out the door again. I've seen her do this dozens of times.
Eventually, Strum put a sign on the door---"Please don't let the cat in"---which never solved the problem. So, utterly frustrated, Strum gave the cat to a customer, who took it to live in Dartmouth.
You can catch this story in its entirety thanks to an in-depth radio documentary by the CBC's Phlis McGregor. This radio piece is in some ways the perfect snapshot of the Gottingen Street area; it has everything: the CoHo, Alteregos, Seadogs, Charlies (5580 Cunard Street, 429-1401) and Propeller Brewery (2015 Gottingen Street, 422-7767), as well as a host of local characters discussing with passion what at heart is an absurd situation.
Moving to the present, this morning, Loukas Crowther and Megan Fildes, who are two-thirds of The Coast's production team, stopped by Alteregos, only to find Babylady outside, looking to get back into the cafe.
"He was clean," says Fildes.
Learning of this astonishing news, I got the full scoop from Strum, who is rather annoyed and put off by the whole thing.
"I had nothing to do with it," she assures.
Apparently, the boyfriend of the anonymous Dartmouth catnapper heard McGregor's piece on the ceeb, and explained the situation to her. She felt guilty, and so returned the cat this morning. But people on the street---"not me!" says Strum---told the woman that Babylady was better off in Dartmouth, and so she came back and retrieved him.
Somehow, I don't think we've heard the end of this story.