Before Brooklyn, when I still lived with my sister and her husband-the-doctor, they had a Siamese cat called Ffup (Puff backwards), and a Standard Poodle called Licorice (because she was black, duh). The cat was like a dog. I used to walk the dog on a leash to the park, and the cat would walk too, without a leash, scampering up ahead until we’d catch up. This went on for several blocks. The neighbors came to know us and love us.Shortly after I moved out, my sister called to say she developed an allergy to Ffup and asked if I’d like him. “Sure,” I always wanted a Siamese cat. It sparked the Holly Golightly in me. So Ffup came to live with me, and my roommate. Now Ffup was a nice enough name, but I had a feeling I had to brand him with a new name to truly make him my own. I started going through names, rejecting the usual pet names, reading baby name books, feeling stumped until I remembered where the kitten came from in the first place. The original owner was an associate of my sister’s husband-the-doctor. His name was Alvin. Alvin. Perfect. Not long after that, cousin Bobbi called to ask me to babysit her cat. She knew I loved cats. I can’t remember the cat’s name, but he was big and white (was it Snowball?), and had a big nose. He reminded me of Barbara Streisand, so I called him Barbara. I think he didn’t like that. At the time, I had an avocado tree. I had raised it from a seed, and it had grown to be tall and quite attractive. So much so, that I entered it in The Avocado Pit Grower’s Contest in Gramercy Park. Seriously. I schlepped that big ol’ potted tree in the subway all the way to the city, to a hotel basement, where the competition was fierce. You know how much I hate competition. Then, my poor plant was deemed nice. Nice. But too young to participate with the big boys. Dejected, me and my nice tree schlepped home. But Barbara (the cat) liked the tree, too. So much so that he used it as a litter box. He liked the tree but hated me. He killed my beloved tree. I think it was because I called him Barbara. After that, I could never get another avocado pit to grow.