Cat: I've been tripping since 2 AM. The last one I took was around noon, so I'm in my casual happy zone right now.
BW: Where are you from?
Cat: Philadelphia. I moved here about six months ago.
BW: How's it going?
Cat: It's been hard. I grew up in Philadelphia, and it was the only place I'd ever lived--the only place anyone in my family has ever lived. I've never been the new person. I came here with a suitcase and $16, and I knew nobody.
BW: What was it like growing up?
Cat: I grew up a honky kid in Philly. Mostly it was scary as shit, but I was also super privileged. My parents were really well educated but just sad. They didn't really know how to make money or do anything right. I worked really hard in high school and got really lucky. I got to play music and do lots of cool things that propelled me to college and getting a degree and having scholarships, so I didn't have any debt.
I was living in Philly and was doing everything I was supposed to do--a super good girl--graduated from college and was going to get my Ph.D. in Classical Language and Literature at Penn, but I got a job there instead. I case managed leukemia and lymphoma cancer cases at the University of Pennsylvania. It was very sad.
I was living with a guy that I was super in love with, and he broke up with me on his thirtieth birthday. Two weeks after he broke up with me, our lease ended. I was working this really prestigious job, college degree, and had gotten into a couple of different grad programs. And I was suddenly homeless, no money, don't know how to drive so I didn't even have a car to sleep in. I was freaking the fuck out. I ended up getting fired from my job because I was a wreck. I'd just turned twenty-four, and I was terrified.
I'm like, fuck. I did everything right, and it sucks. I'm not gonna do that again, so I go back to bartending and get an apartment in Philly, but I was miserable. So I just decided to go somewhere. I got a random call from someone I hardly knew saying that their friend needed a roommate in New Orleans. They said it was $280 a month, but I had to be there in like five days. I got my friend wasted enough to agree to drive me down the next day.
I got here, and the apartment was in the Upper 9th. It was a three-room shotgun. My roommate was a fifty-two-year-old dude who I don't think had ever fucked around with a broom once. And I'm like, I have nothing. I have no money, no job. I don't have a bed. I'm sleeping on clothes. When I got there I immediately knew I was out of that house. I was having to go all the way Uptown for this job I got. I had two bikes stolen. Got bed bugs. But I just kinda hustled. Every job I got was a little better.
I got wasted at Aunt Tiki's one day [bar on Decatur Street in the French Quarter.] The owner said, "You're weird and you're poor. Looks like you need a job." So, I just stumbled in and joined the freak show.
I guess that's how it all transpired. I got mad broken-hearted and spiteful. We were together for two years. I'd lived with boyfriends and been in love but this was different. I felt like I would cut off my arm for him. And he was just like, "Seen it... no." You're very aware when you love someone more than they love you. And you know it's gonna happen and it's gonna suck. It was inevitable but it still sucked. I did a lot of drugs about it.
BW: Did that help?
Cat: Yeah, are you kidding? Yes. Drugs are sick. I am in AA though. Isn't that ironic? I don't drink, and I don't smoke weed.
BW: What's it like bartending and not drinking?
Cat: Oh, it makes it way easier to not drink. I see everyone, and I'm like, I was you but worse.
BW: Are you glad you moved?
Cat: I don't know that I'm glad all the time because it's really hard to meet people. Like today, I was tripping on this amazing acid and I was like, who do I know that I'm super close with that I could just go hang out with and we could talk about how funny this is and how I found these stupid glasses? And it's nobody.