When you know creative people (Part 2 of 2)

One of the best things about being (or knowing) an obsessive, creative person is the opportunity it affords to give the people in your life presents that are going to make them smile, yell “Holy shit, that’s amazing,” or stare in disbelief.

I pride myself on my ability to give thoughtful, unexpected, and imaginative presents regardless of my financial circumstances. While other people panic and bemoan the approaching holiday season–please stop doing that everyone, it’s such a downer!–I am madly and delightedly hoarding presents, sewing stockings for my coworkers, and constructing bows and wrapping paper from old issues of New Times. (This isn’t a directive for everyone to do the same, by the way. I enjoy it, and that’s why I do it.)

So when my friend Maeva Considine invited me to her housewarming party and I joked that I would buy her one of those creepy posters of babies dressed as vegetables, I wasn’t really kidding. No one ever said gifts have to be serious, and I think some of the best presents are actually humorous and light-hearted offerings. On Sunday night, six days before the party, my boyfriend and I went on a hunt for an appropriate poster. I was holding out hope that we’d find one of babies dressed as a really unusual vegetable–maybe an artichoke or onion. But the sad truth is, posters of infants dressed as fairies and flowers and fruit seem to have gone out of style. All those years of not being able to leave your house without somehow sighting a chubby, slumbering baby curled in rose petals and, for the first time I actually wanted to find one, and for the first time there were none.

We regrouped. Clearly, our plans would require some modification. Being a bit of a control freak, I’m not a big fan of having to modify something I originally thought was perfect. What followed is a fairly perfect example of why I sometimes need to relinquish control and remain open to alternative possibilities.

We considered a cat poster and dismissed it as too obvious. But what if we made Maeva (and her girlfriend Aileen) their very own cat poster, featuring their very own kitten, Billy Murray? Colin has the necessary photography skills, and I figured we could pull together some costumes and props from the nearby Dollar Tree.

The biggest hurdle was getting our hands on Bill Murray without Maeva and Aileen figuring out what we were doing. So I did what any managing editor of a newspaper would do: I lied. I told Maeva we needed to borrow Bill Murray the following evening for a photo shoot for the paper. Maeva went into pageant mom mode, and Colin and I made our way to the Dollar Tree, elated (me) and regretful and doubtful (Colin).

We bought: a red wig (because Maeva’s a redhead, so obviously her progeny would be a ginger too), tiara, dress-up plastic bling, plastic pumpkin for trick-or-treating, clock necklace, faux glasses, leis, a bouquet of fake sunflowers, an elaborate blue bow, a purple feather boa, and a bedazzled pink cat shirt. (We already had bunny ears, a Santa hat, and an Easter bunny costume for cats at home.)

Our plan was to utilize Cat Cat’s dollhouse as the backdrop for the poster. We’d place Bill Murray on different levels of the house in different costumes, and Colin would photoshop all the costumed Bill Murrays into a single shot. All we had to do was convince a kitten to wear a wig and pose in a dollhouse. Repeatedly. How difficult could that be?

After finishing my class at the gym, I raced to Maeva and Aileen’s place in Shell Beach. They had Bill Murray ready to go (which meant leashed and harnessed and wearing a Darth Vader sweater, which I should have expected and would prove a great advantage over the course of the next hour and a half).

Colin had the dollhouse set up in a corner of the kitchen, with the camera secured into a tripod that I was warned not to bump. Easy enough in theory. Not so much when you’re flustered and wrestling a reluctant kitten into a pink shirt.

The photo shoot took a little over an hour, over the course of which Bill Murray proved that he is the most Bill Murray Final Imagelow-maintenance, cooperative kitten on the face of the planet. He endured wigs and boas, wore shirts and necklaces, sniffed flowers and sat on our shoulders purring in between takes to give him some down time. I wouldn’t contend that the process was easy, or completely withouts its stressful moments (especially after I tripped over the tripod), but Bill Murray was a gem and I found myself hoping he’d forget the entire incident and refrain from holding it against me.

While my contributions to the effort were largely at an end, Colin had three solid nights of photoshop ahead of him (and a fair amount of video editing, to boot). My final responsibility was to get the jpeg file printed at Kinko’s, then find an appropriate frame at Aaron Brothers. The look on the Kinko’s employee’s face when she brought me the poster was pretty priceless and made me wish I was wearing my knitted cat sweater just to paint an even more entertaining/ terrifying picture. She did relax a little when I explained that it was a gag gift. I probably ought to have insisted it was my masterpiece.

Was it worth it? Well, the look on Maeva and Aileen’s faces when they saw the 22″ x 28″ poster we printed and framed was pretty incredible. And the fact that Maeva leapt to remove something already hanging on their living room wall to make room for the poster was a pretty solid indication that it was a hit. Bill Murray mostly avoided us during the party, but I’ll load up on cat toys and catnip the next time I drop by to try and bribe him into liking me again. All in all, I’d say it was a successful housewarming present, and I was a great deal more excited and proud than I would have been if we had just purchased something generic.

(And no, I don’t ordinarily make a habit of dressing up cats. But if Anne Geddes can glue wings and petals to newborns, I don’t see why I can’t put a wig on a cat for a one-time special occasion that made two moms very happy and proud.) Also, I needed additional justification for buying my cat a dollhouse.





  1. […] That time we kidnapped Bill Murray (her kitten) and did a photoshoot with him for her housewarming […]

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