Today while cleaning out a closet Ann ran across a framed T-shirt with a cat emblem. This emblem was none other than the Fat Cat T-shirt I had purchased in the late 1970’s from a Pacific Grove, CA restaurant. This piece of an old T-shirt reminded me of the following memory.
A long time ago (late1970's) in the far-far-off land of Pacific Grove California, I was an undercover agent in charge of the Fort Ord, CA., Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) drug team. If you were young, crazy and had a lot of energy, you could be a drug agent in those days. In fact, if you are crazy and have a lot of energy you can be drug agent today. Of course, the catch is you have to be an Army CID agent. The recent 1999 movie “The General's Daughter” gives you a good idea of what the Army CID was and is like. Now of course it is not always as exciting as the movie was, but almost.
Working at Fort Ord, CA was not all work and no play. My trusty assistant and I (Guy who later became the team chief and even retired as a CW4 from the CID) used to take a break from the day-to-day hassle of arresting drug dealers. One of our stress release activities was to have breakfast or lunch at a not so famous restaurant, The Fat Cat, located in Pacific Grove, CA. For those of you, who are not familiar with the Monterey, CA, area, Pacific Grove is a suburb of Monterey.
Guy and I both looked like drug dealers and users (long hair, side burns, bell-bottoms, T-shirts, fake tattoos, mustaches, etc); because we had to look that way, found a place that served great food and information. The people at the Fat Cat would just die if they ever herd that comment, but most people who ate at the Fat Cat were 'locals' and you had to be one of the local crowd for people to even sit near you. If you were not a local, the locals would leave until you left, then they would come back and enjoy their food and conversation. How did Guy and I find this place?
The Fat Cat was one of two Fat Cat restaurants located in the Monterey Bay, CA area. Both of these restaurants were local hangouts for beatniks, yes, beatniks. Pacific Grove was the original location and the final destination of the legendary beatnik culture. Therefore, you can imagine what these places looked like. When I thought of a beatnik, I thought of Manerd G. Crebs from the Dobie Gillis TV Show, (shows what I knew.) However, that mental picture was close to the Fat Cat beatnik. This may be where I picked up my liking for Jazz. In fact, except for the logo (just like on the T-Shirt) on the front picture window, you would not even know the place was a restaurant. I had stumbled across the Fat Cat in Monterey previously and that is the only way I knew this Fat Cat was also a restaurant. The Fat Cat near 17-mile drive was in what used to be a trailer park, but it served some of the best squid omelets you could ever want to taste. Yes, I had strange taste in those days.
This Fat Cat in Pacific Grove was on a main street with parking in front and in the rear. The layout of the PG FC was not bad. When you walked in, there was a large open area with about twenty tables. The largest table sat right in the picture window area and could seat about 15. There was a serving counter and bar to the left, the kitchen was located just behind a door, and a half wall in the rear. In addition, a door leads to a long hall where the toilets and the rear entrance and exit were located. To the right the floor had been elevated, so you had to walk up some steps to another area with another twenty tables. Half way up the floor separation there was a kind of stage for the singers, poem speakers, and who ever to do their thing. Any one could walk up to the mike, yes there was a mike, say what you had to say, and go sit down.
One day Guy and I must have been talking about going to the Fat Cat while we were at the CID office. Someone must have heard us and decided that would be a good place for the entire CID office to go to for breakfast. Of course, no one discussed that idea with Guy and me. The last thing we needed was for 15 or so Army CID Agents to come eat breakfast in our hangout. Now I am not saying drugs were sold at the Fat Cat, Guy and I did overhear conversations about drugs while there, but we never saw any drugs or purchased any drugs at the Fat Cat. It was a good place to be seen and know about to be part of the drug culture. The Fat Cat was just a neat place to go and have breakfast. On this ill fated day, Guy and I parked in the back, walked in and took a seat at a table in the loft area where we could talk without being bothered and where we had a good view of the entire place. Guy and I were considered locals at this place, so when we came in all who were there checked us out, nodded, we nodded, and they all got back to eating and talking.
At 9:00 AM on that Monday morning, the world as the Fat Cat knew it ended for about an hour and a half. It all happened in slow motion. Four low slung 1975 Ford, four-door sedans (just like the ones in the TV show “The FBI” pulled into the parking slots located in front of the Fat Cat picture window. Each car was tan, had a whip antenna mounted on the rear, and four, yes four very large CID agents were seated in each of the cars. All the car doors opened at the same time, and all the blue suited (blue suits, white shirts, strange colored ties, guns, badges, and radios) CID Agents got out of their cars at the same time. I am not sure why Guy, I, and everyone else in the Fat Cat were looking out the window as the cars pulled up, but we were. Before the CID Agents were out of the cars, everyone in the place (about thirty people were sitting on the lower floor) except Guy and I, was moving towards the rear door of the Fat Cat. The five or so waiters and waitresses were moving to the tables, removing the food, and taking it to the kitchen area. By the time, the CID Agents had gathered on the sidewalk talking cop talk with police radios blaring, the Fat Cat was empty. The tables were cleared and if you had not been sitting in the place five minutes earlier, you would not know anyone had been there. The 16 CID Agents moved into the Fat Cat and sat at the table in front of the picture window. The table was situated so that none of the CID Agents had their backs to the window. Go figure. Guy and I sat quietly in our lofty location just out of sight of our CID gang below. We could not believe they were at our Fat Cat. Cops are cops and it was strange to hear them talk about every cop case they were currently working. It was as if they did not believe anyone was going to listen. Guy and I took notes. I will admit, no one at the Fat Cat was listening, they were just watching to see what was going on. The CID Agents got A-1 service, the food was great, and all the CID Agents loved the place. However, they did not know it would be the last time they would eat there on duty. Guy and I would later have a conversation with the CID CW4 Operations Officer about the Fat Cat being off limits for on duty CID Agents. As quickly as the CID Agents had arrived (even though it lasted 1:30 minutes) they departed. Surprisingly they left a good tip and did not act as cops can act without thinking. As before, once the CID Agents were out the door, the Fat Cat staff was putting food back on the tables and the same crowd that had been there earlier was coming back inside to resume eating their food and discussing the invasion of the CID Agents. No one seemed to notice Guy and I were still sitting at our table drinking coffee and watching.
Those were the days of fun and excitement when you leased expected it.
Keep smiling and having fun for these are the good old days