Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

Leaving the Dog Park

We’ ve just loaded up our dog after a run at the dog park and are sitting in our truck buckling up.

A car pulls up and the door opens, out come a man and his dog.

The man is old and walks with a cane. He is a heavy guy and that seems to make his walking more labored. Paddling behind him is a little but enormously overweight white dog, his black leash trailing behind him. Both the man and his dog walk, tottering from side to side, to the gate of the dog park. We pull out of the parking lot and head home.

“Why is he making that dog so fat?” I ask. There is no answer from my companion, my husband, who often doesn’t answer questions he considers esoteric or invitations to pile on.

It’s an important question to me. I may occasionally veer toward the plump myself but I hate seeing a fat dog. A fat dog isn’t healthy. A seriously fat dog is on death’s door – he can’t move without heaving. And a dog is only fat because his human has made him that way.

And why is that, you ask. Why would a human make his dog fat? Here’s why. Because making the dog happy in the moment is more important to the human than keeping the dog healthy in the long term. That sounds harsh when I say it. Maybe it is.

So I think about the old man and conjure up a life for him in my head. Maybe he was widowed and living alone and all he has is his fat dog. Maybe feeding his dog extra snacks is the only thing that makes him happy. Maybe someone gave him the dog, already fat and he has been trying hard to slim him down. I have no way of knowing. Even if we weren’t already leaving the dog park, it would be unseemly to query him. “Sir, why exactly is your dog so fat?”

Then I realize that the old man and his fat dog are at the dog park. They have come to a place where people walk and dogs run. There is a 1/3 mile trail through the little woods and so, in not much time, a mile walk can be achieved. Maybe the old man has brought his dog here so he won’t be so fat. You have to admire a person who would bring his very fat dog to a place where extremely fit and trim dogs are romping about, not to mention having to suffer the looks of the slim dogs’ owners.

So maybe the old man is working on getting his fat dog to be healthy. Or not. Maybe they go to the dog park together and come home and eat donuts as a reward for their efforts. There is no way of knowing. We can only guess. Or we can just not care which is probably the better option.

Correspondence

I’m going to write my friend a letter
On paper, with ink
Indelible which means

It could last forever
Folded in thirds and stored in the pages of a favorite book
He might show his children my letter

I’ll tell him how I’m feeling
In ways that will stand the test of time
However long that is

I can’t change my mind tomorrow
If my letter is already in flight, a wing on soft paper
Like in the old days, blue tissue folded in on itself

It feels serious, this letter writing
Weighty
Like I better mean what I say

May Bee Friday Round-Up

I work with a group with a deep belief in pizza. We had a meeting tonight during which I ate two big cups of popcorn with mega butter and a Snickers bar. Then the pizza came. Oh, I eschewed the pizza, yes, I did, and carried my righteous self home where I ate a brat, half a plate of potato salad, a bowl of fruit and a chocolate chip bar. Along with some wine. But no pizza touched my lips.

There are pro-choice people everywhere. They just haven’t had to show themselves before. No threat, no need to stand and declare. Now there’s an enormous threat to choice and folks I’d never expect are going out of their way to go on record as pro-choice, not pro-abortion because many aren’t, simply pro-each woman making her own decision. So we can’t lose heart. We will prevail.

I am trying to make my sorry history of gardening into a funny essay. There is a fine line between self-deprecation which, despite my oversize ego, I am quite good at and self-humiliation which I try to avoid. I am a gardener with little success but I’m not an idiot, the egg shell and coffee grounds escapade notwithstanding, so it’s a tough assignment to tell my story so people laugh without sending me gardening tips. I hate that.

You’re probably waiting for me to talk about my dog, also known as #SledDogintheCity. He is great. He is beyond words great. People sometimes cross the street when they see us coming because he’s big and looks a little wolfy and I yell, “He’s friendly!” And he is. He never fusses, never nips, never barks, that’s right. He has not uttered a single bark since he came here a month ago. I don’t get it but I don’t mind. His tail thumps on the floor when he sees me coming.

My husband was just stung by an enormous bee while sitting in the living room. He killed the bee with a giant cookbook, “Please to the Table, The Russian Cook Book,” to be specific, which happened to be sitting on the coffee table, all 659 page of it. It took three hard swats to do the creature in, still at the end, even here across the room, I could see one wing flapping.

Good Morning, OB

To the left of the stairs leading up to the pier at Ocean Beach in San Diego, there is an overstuffed couch. A couple of guys with heavy blond dreadlocks are sitting on the couch and smoking while others in various types of homeless thick-wear (wearing everything you own) are wandering about, chatting, looking bored already. It is just 8:00 in the morning. The guys on the couch are too far away to say hello to, I tell myself. Plus they seem oblivious to me and why shouldn’t they. Another tourist looking at them. I go up the stairs to the pier.

At the top of the stairs, on the little space that is available to stand and admire the ocean and watch the surfers, the rest of the pier shut off to pedestrians for some reason not explained, there is a young woman in a black shirtdress that is gathered snug at the waist with a skirt that puffs out like there is a petticoat underneath. She looks ready for work, sprightly and tailored. She is wearing flip flops which seems incongruous given her dress and when she leans against the bridge railing and stands on her tiptoes to peer at people below, I see that the bottoms of her feet are black, as black as a five-year old going barefoot all day in the summer, but more, days’ worth of black. It has been a long time since her last shower. Still the dress, it seems fresh. I wonder how she keeps it that way.

Next to the pier, a parking lot has every space filled by residential vehicles, mostly vans but not all, some cars. The windows are covered with towels and shirts. People may be living in their cars but they want privacy, for heaven’s sake, reminding myself. People create places for themselves and the places have walls and doors that close even if those things are cars with windows covered with towels or tents with zippered flaps. The parking lot looks like a village. People have lived there a long time.

It is one thing to be homeless but have your place, however ginned up it is, and quite another to be out in the open with nothing, to sleep on the low wall along the sidewalk at Ocean Beach, say, completely exposed to everyone and everything. There are two women doing just that, both wrapped in blankets, sitting up wearily as I walk by, looking as if they are surprised they are still where they were the night before. I consider what it would be like to shut my eyes while I lie out in the open, to sleep exposed to the world although I’ve been told some people would rather be out in the open and see what’s coming than be in a tent and be surprised by what is outside. I don’t know.

None of the homeless people I see approach me. No one asks me for anything. One man says good morning but only one. It’s as if I don’t exist in their world, like I am invisible and I probably am. There are so many of us tourists walking by guarding our phones and our wallets, it must get tiresome, to have to live your life with all the onlookers, especially ones you know will go home and talk about you, all the homeless in San Diego, how they are all over the beach, and what a terrible problem they are.

Post Nasal

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash
Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

My nose runs a ridiculous amount of the time.

My nose runs if I am hot, if I am walking fast, or if it is Wednesday.

I don’t know why this is.

I sit down at my desk and my nose is running. So I reach for a Kleenex.

I get in the car to leave the dog park and my nose is running. So I reach in my pocket for a used, very used Kleenex.

I stop at red lights and sometimes, when I think no one is looking, wipe my nose on my sleeve, like I’m 9 years old and getting called in from recess.

A very long time ago, I had a cocaine-snorting boyfriend. His nose didn’t run this much.

No. I’m not allergic to anything. And no, I don’t do cocaine. Only once. At a Grateful Dead concert so many years ago I’m not exactly sure when it was. Where it was, I do remember. I remember that, and also, that nobody cared. I did, though. I thought I was committing the crime of the century. I’m such a law-abider, it isn’t funny.

Back to my nose. Constant sniveling, which is what it amounts to, is so unbecoming. So is wandering around clutching a Kleenex or, as my mother would say, a hanky in my little age-spot-dotted fist.

This, not the state of the world, not the latest travesty or injustice, not the current poll or yesterday’s analysis, this, my friend, is the topic of my blog today, my overly-running nose. Make of it what you will.

Cobwebs

The cobwebs in the basement are thick and clammy. They hang like wet strings from water pipes and electrical wires running along the papered ceiling where, along the edges, you can see the 100-year-old 2 x 4s that are the bones of our house.

The plaster on the walls, reapplied every ten years or so, is peeling again. It curls in thick strands, suspended until the weight becomes too much and the plaster drops and shatters on the floor. Under the plaster is the brick foundation, each brick mortared to the next so carefully you think you might see fingerprints.

The floor used to be dirt, just dirt. Our three-story house with the brick foundation rested on dirt, brown and packed so hard it could be swept with a broom, but still dirt. We changed that though because it was unnerving, it seemed risky to have a house built on dirt, primitive, although the house with its dirt basement had already lasted a long time before we moved in. The house wasn’t going anywhere.

The basement holds many of our things including a black trunk of baby clothes I haven’t opened since my now 46-year old daughter became a toddler. Don’t ask me why. Part of me thinks her tiny undershirts and corduroy overalls may have mouldered after all these years and if I open the trunk and see just the remnants of her infant wardrobe in moldy shreds, it will break my heart. The trunk sits on an old wooden desk in the room where we keep all the old paint cans and vast stacks of record albums that we brought to our marriage but then never played anymore, the music on them tuned, I guess, to our private lives before we met.

There is a tiny bathroom in the basement. It is very narrow with just a toilet at one end, it has been decades since the toilet flushed and would have been nearly as long since anyone ventured into the bathroom at all if my son hadn’t gone in searching for rats. You see, I had found a dead rat in the yard and called an exterminator. He came the next day, armed with a clipboard and a flashlight, and walked around the house and through the basement pointing out the countless ways that rats could get into our house, the tiny bathroom being one. They will swim up toilets, you know, a disquieting fact if there ever was one.

We threw out newspapers and magazines, old furniture, and anything that would be food or shelter to a rat. That is a long list of things, though, so the mound of debris in front of our house was enormous. It felt like we were unpacking a hundred years of secrets and mistakes for everyone to see. Vast quantities of dirty laundry, you might say. But we rid ourselves of rats, in the narrow bathroom and everywhere else in the basement.

Now we have a new washer and dryer and a new freezer. There are shelves for the big pots and cookers that we rarely use. Tools are stored in a set of red drawers, each with its own lock, and the birdseed is in sealed bins. In the back of the basement, though, is our old dining room table. It lies on its side with five chairs. We bought it new after years of using an old farm table that sank in the middle; the new table was a luxury, beautiful and glowing, but over the years, there were scratches and water marks, scorches, and other abuses. So one day we bought a new table, much like the old, but perfect, and when the men came to set it up, they looked at the old table, about to be taken to the basement, and said, “This should have lasted a lifetime.” And the words stung, even though I was paying them and not looking for their opinion, so I’ve kept the old table and chairs in the basement all these years, the cobwebs draped on them like streamers from somebody’s birthday a long time ago.

Alpenglow Friday Round-Up

Superior’s edges are rough with the end of winter. I was careful walking not sure what was firm and what might be floating.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan could be Norway but it isn’t. Parts of it are very foreign, other worldly, but fundamental in a scrappy way.

I may have just turned 71 but I want the world to know that if need be I can still fry it up in a pan. Or barbecue. Same difference.

I followed a friend with a flashlight into the woods. She shone the flashlight behind her so I wouldn’t trip, not having thought to bring my own flashlight. And in the woods, we gave a man some dinner. We hugged him and I walked behind her back out to the street, feeling many layers of taking care.

My son left a pie for us on our porch last night. Key lime. My husband said it was an homage to the many years when Good Friday marked the start of our mad dash to the Florida Keys where we would eat piles of shrimp and fat slices of pie and argue about when it was time to go to bed.