I was walking uptown from my apartment on New York’s Lower East Side two weeks ago when an especially exuberant corner — Orchard and Delancey, to be specific — caught my eye. Fancy that, I thought. Someone painted a building just for me.
That majestic white beast (posed on the building’s Orchard side in homage to Seinfeld‘s George Costanza) is Lord Nermal, announcing the newest kids on the block — Ripndip, a Los Angeles-based skate label, has an NYC pop-up store and gallery for the month of May.
Cats and skateboards are natural allies, so I didn’t need to ask Ryan O’Connor (who started Ripndip in Orlando in 2009) why he emblazoned decks and shirts with a fluffy white feline. Why “Nermal,” though?
“When my friends and I were growing up, we called all the neighborhood stray cats ‘Nermal,'” Ryan told me, “and when we said hey to them, they always turned around.”
Speaking of strays, Ryan and his team talked about organizing an event with real cats back in Los Angeles, though they have yet to put one together. Would they be open to teaming up with an adoption group in the future?
“We would,” said Ryan — who, ironically, is allergic to cats — “though there’s a fine line,” he trailed off politely …
… between having a fluffy unofficial mascot and becoming the kind of person who ambushes a bunch of skaters and encourages them to turn into a cat sanctuary?
Ha, fair enough. Nermal is hypoallergenic — and if you want to make him a permanent fixture in your life, Ripndip offers free tattoos every Sunday here in New York City.
At the pop-up store and gallery, Nermal works his way into iconic images from film, 20th century modern art, Eastern tradition, Western religion, and rock ‘n’ roll.
You can appreciate the gallery’s Nermal table (which struck me as a vastly superior successor to the tables from the Korova Milk Bar in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange). “Nermali” replaces melting clocks with melting cats in an adaptation of the Salvador Dalí painting “The Persistence of Memory.” Four Nermals, meanwhile, keep Frida Kahlo company in a poster.
Nermal appears in a sweetly profane take on the figurine known as Maneki Neko (“beckoning cat” in Japanese) that waves in good fortune for its owners. Ripndip’s version features the Virgin Mary and a mechanical Nermal who beckons you with his middle fingers.
If you fancy the LP titled The Velvet Underground & Nico, sometimes referred to as “the Banana Album” because of its Andy Warhol fruit on the cover, the Nermal banana pin has all the potassium you need.
Shred in good health, cat and compatriots.