Wednesday, August 24, 2005

a walk to the park

Today we took the little black grandpuppy to the park where he met a huge rusty golden retriever named Murphy who was trying to rub his way out of his "gentle leader." After a few minutes, he was reunited with his friend Frodo the beagle. Sadly, however, his new girlfriend Bailey the part Chesapeake was a no-show and the two little part-dachshunds who did show up, scared to death of anything canine bigger than a rat, were hardly a consolation prize.

Walking Aiko (the grandpuppy) is a bit of a dance. Bagel, the old dog, walks in a straight line, more or less --- sure, she gets distracted by a telephone pole or a shrub or discarded fast food wrappings. But Aiko's
movements defy any kind of mapping. Sometimes he zig-zags, sometimes he runs in circles, sometimes he wraps the leash around the legs of the lucky person walking him. Skillful switching of the leash-handle from hand to hand can stave this off. It's next to impossible to avoid tangles if you're trying to carry something in one hand, such as a Chai-berg, my favorite summer indulgence.

It's a revelation to me, has been now for over seven years --- but it's a chronically self-renewing revelation that walking a friendly dog makes all the difference. Aiko of course is a revelation in his own right, being a new pup. But I've been walking Bagel over seven years; she's the kind of dog you NEVER worry about when strangers, including the tiniest of children, want to poke stroke and fondle. The only time she's EVER exhibited anything akin to aggression is when a drunk femme-fatale-style blonde woman messed with her ears, which at the time were infected.

Prior to Bagel I had not walked a dog (much) since Mackey, the springer spaniel my parents got me when I turned 10 ("old enough" --- I had only been clamoring for a puppy since I learned to talk). Mackey was a full-blooded pedigreed show dog. He had a temperament that was at best grouchy, at worst hostile to anything that moved. Except me and my mom. No, he didn't like my dad. At all. He was only about half-grown when he first attacked my dad's hand and drew blood. A long series of attacks were to follow: friends, babysitters, grandmothers, you name it.
None of the attacks were severe --- sometimes there was no blood involved, but everyone was scared when it happened --- a dog can have
that sudden totally shocking and surprising way of lunging and suddenly all you feel is teeth.

Mackey could not stand to have anyone mess with his food. That was where he absolutely drew the line. But it wasn't just HIS food, it was whatever food he decided was his. I remember sitting with my parents in our living room, Mackey up on the coffee table slurping up our cottage cheese dip, my parents announcing to me that we were going to get rid of the hateful hound.

Well, I didn't hate him. I did hate worrying about him. When I came home from school and saw my dad's walking stick broken in two outside the back door, I knew, and felt sick to my stomach. Later that day my parents let me know that Mackey had died from his injuries and that we would be getting a kitten.

Having someone new to love does tend to ease the grieving for a lost friend, even though no dog or cat can be replaced, no new critter can fill the paw prints of the lamented departed one. I have fond memories of my childhood cat, Dutiful Penitence, but though I have some downright awful memories of Mackey, I dream about him at least twice a year.
In the dreams he either never died or he's back from the dead, and he's running and bouncing, chasing balls and sticks, slurping my face with
his long doggy tongue, doing everything but the bad stuff he used to do.

Bagel is a far cry from Mackey in the looks department. Well, Rae called Bagel, in a poem, "No longer cute / a marble cake with teeth." But I don't look at springer spaniels the way I used to. I don't look at any pure bred
show dog the same way, because I'm always wondering what was sacrificed to a) breed such dogs, and b) teach such dogs to obey.
Are dogs works of art to be admired, or are they delightful frolicking furry friends? I realize they can be both. Mackey wasn't. Aiko is. Bagel has the furry friend part nailed.

I hope you bloggers out there have plenty of encounters with four-footed intelligent life on a regular basis. It's better than poetry sometimes.


Monday, August 22, 2005

diary of a semi-retired hypochondriac

Lili Tomlin, I think, was the one who said: "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you." Along the same lines: "Just because you're a hypochondriac doesn't mean there's nothing wrong with you." What's wrong with me at the moment is that I have cell-phone-itis.
I just spend two hours and thirty-eight minutes on my cell with precisely the person I had resolved not to spend hours on my cell with. Not that I didn't wish to speak to this person, I was just going to do it on the land phone. Well, the land phone where I currently am situated is temporarily out of commission. I could have gone home, but there the land phone has such a short cord that to talk on it I have to sit in a chair next to the cat litter box. The friend I was just talking to on my cell has let me know her birthday present to me is a looooooooong phone cord. Another option would have been getting a new battery for the cordless phone, but such are the chores that get put off to my next lifetime.

Anyway, the news from Louisville to my fellow bloggers is that everything is falling apart. For example: the black puppy's voice has changed. Just now, I mean five minutes ago, I heard him howl for the first time in his life. Or anyway in my life. The black puppy is evolving beyond teething, too, which of course is welcome, and he has begun doing his business on newspaper we put out for him on the living room floor. ALSO: yesterday
the black puppy met the love of his life. She is just about exactly his age and size, both look like Labs but his mom is a Doberman, hers is a
Chesapeake Bay Retriever. They met in the park, they kissed, they hugged, they chased, they rolled in the grass. The girlfriend's owner lit a cigarette and I wanted one more than I have wanted one these two months, sometimes it seems a ceremonial cigarette should be smoked.
How can I possibily declare a moment sacred without the holiness of SMOKE???

But today I'm still on the wagon. It was the first day of school; a friend had told me "If you want to stay away from smoking, don't do anything you don't want to do, because if you feel put-upon you'll want to smoke."
So today I had to start teaching and believe me, I felt put-upon. SOMEBODY was making me do it. Now I couldn't tell you who somebody was; if asked to meditate on it I would be forced to conclude that I myself was the one who dreamt up the cock-eyed idea of going back to teaching when my life of liesure had only one defect --- it was making me crazy.
Why give up perfectly good crazy-making liesure for perfectly healthy
order-causing structure???

And when I was talking to the kids (college freshmen) today I realized:
I KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT. I realized: when I'm going on about the value of reading and writing, when I'm going on about the value of writing and re-writing, I AM NOT BS-ING. In a class of 25, two or three are bound to hear me. One or two are going to really enjoy this class, come out of the experience feeling they've grown not just as writers, but as human beings.

So to go back to where I started this blog entry, I'm trying to put the hypochondriac thing on the back burner. Maybe it was the ECE that made me feel my wheels were coming off. I'm waiting to hear from Rae about her first day teaching at the men's prison. With any luck, they won't lock her up there with the guys. To all of you who have followed this blog entry to its feeble conclusion, thank you. I hope you're all feeling fine.


Friday, August 12, 2005

why it's OK to apologize

A friend is always telling me "never apologize." I tend to speak two or three apologetic sentences before I read a poem. Anyway people seem to think the sentences are apologetic. It's not just one friend who tells me to SHUT UP AND READ, it's a whole throng of people, dating back as long as I remember. I haven't just apologized for poems, I've apologized for
2000 types of offenses, and now you're wondering why I'm so sure of the number, I'm borrowing it from the Lever soap commercial.

I actually think we should all apologize for existing. I'm especially apologetic tonight because my existence seems to require way too much explanation. Explanation is something poets sometimes do prior to reading which is mistaken, sometimes, for apologizing. "But if you don't know I grew up on a houseboat, you won't understand why in the poem
I talk about leaning out the kitchen window and grabbing a fat fish."
That's an apologetic explanation for an explanation. If Bob the poet at the reading you went to tonight had delivered words along these lines between poems, would it have ruined the evening for you???

I feel like apologizing because of what I've been publishing on my blog, but that's nothing new. I feel like explaining: Rae was holding a gun to my right temple, I said NO I can't publish your poem on my blog, I'll DIE before you do, but she clicked the orange button with her left foot. I didn't know she had done this until later, and by then it was too late, everyone who wasn't going to read the blog hadn't read it.

What makes me such an effusive blogger??? I've always got to write a new blog entry to apologize for the one that came before. The most awkward ones seem to be as awkward in reality as I think they are after clicking
the orange button --- OOOPS --- of course I know I can always delete.
I'm going to delete Rae's poem but not until I print out a copy.

Have I quoted this Elton John song before?

I'm sorry I took your time
I am the poem that doesn't rhyme.