b Papa Dog's Blog: August 2004

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Do-It-Yourself Superstition (and Language)

Long long time ago – how many years now? – who knows? – I was walking on Broadway, somewhere north of Dave’s formerly all-night coffee shop, now a mostly deserted husk of its former self, when I happened to notice a playing card face down on the sidewalk. On impulse, I started to pick it up, then froze, gripped with a strange certainty that if I were to turn the card over, I would see some terrible omen. The “You’re About to Get Squashed by Falling Satellite Debris” card or something. I was in the grip of two contradictory irrational impulses; I was very curious to see what card was lying there on the sidewalk, but I dreaded the possibility of satisfying that curiosity. I walked on and left the card there, now absorbed with the thought that the English language lacked a word for that feeling: an intense curiosity that one is reluctant to satisfy. For some reason, the examples of that feeling I can think of all come from hardboiled detective fiction. E.g.: the detective you hired to follow your possibly cheating spouse hands you an envelope that probably contains photos. Or, you’re in the morgue and the corpse who might be your loved one is lying under a sheet. And so on. For a long time I worked under the assumption that there must be such a word in German, because the Germans always have words for these things, but the last German speaker I asked couldn’t come up with one. So let’s come up with one in English. What is this I’m describing? Fear of knowing the unknown, I guess. Fateorignotusphobia? Fateor being “to make known” and ignotus being “unknown.” Wait, is “phobia” Latin or Greek? Not exactly trippingly off the tongue regardless. I welcome suggestions.

Oh yes – the reason I was reminded of all this was that I came across a playing card the other night whilst walking the dog. I was going to once again leave it where it lay, but then I remembered that Mama Dog, operating on a whole different set of whimsies than I, had some time ago taken to collecting playing cards she finds on the street, in hopes of one day assembling an entire mismatched deck of 52. I think she might have a dozen or so by now. Anyway, I picked this one up without looking at it and brought it home to her, which I thought an acceptable compromise. Very difficult not to peek, though.

In other news, the Greedy Old Plutoctrats are assembling in NYC, where they are shocked, shocked at the suggestion they may be trading on the 9/11 attacks for political gain. They’re gathering to, among other things, adopt a platform calling for constitutional bans on gay marriage and abortion. ‘Cause they’re all about keeping government from interfering in peoples’ lives. But don’t get me started, I just came down from my hypertension moment over the morning paper.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Special Bonus Song Parody Post

A couple few years ago, Mama Dog and I started getting into what we like to call “fogart” music (if Bogey = Bogart, then fogy = fogart), exemplified by pop vocals from the thirties and forties. The Mills Brothers remain a particular favourite, but we also had a brief vogue for Bing Crosby. Sometime during this mini-craze, I found myself for the first time actually listening to the lyrics of “Don’t Fence Me In.” (I'd put a link for an MP3 here, but I'm too much of a fogart to know how to find a free one.) I guess I’d heard the song a few hundred times since childhood, in movies and whatnot, but had never paid enough attention to really hear the words. When I did, it struck me that this song expressed an attitude unerringly opposite to my own in virtually every particular. I started to compose a little response in my head. Where Bing (or, more accurately, Cole Porter, who wrote the song) says “Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above,” I’d say, “Give me walls, good thick walls, with a solid roof above.” Little by little over the years I came up with increments of a song parody. Today, I’m happy to share with you the final fruits of yet another waste of my time. Here is:

The Agoraphobe’s Request (Please Lock Me In)

Oh, give me walls,
Good thick walls and a solid roof as well,
Please lock me in.
Stop the rays
With a baize curtain blocking solar hell
Please lock me in.
I feel fucked when I’m stuck
Out in open spaces.
I wanna stay home
Where I don’t see no traces
Of dirt, plants, or bugs
Or of strangers’ faces;
Please lock me in.
Just let me lie on
My recliner, nothing’s finer
Than a quiet little nap.
In the outdoors
I won’t tarry, it’s too scary,
And besides it’s a deathtrap.
I want to stay on the couch
Where I can reach my beverage
If I’m outside
I just might lose my leverage
If it weren’t so goddamn hot
I might go make a sandwich*
Please lock me in.
* Pronounced “sendwidge.” Okay, you come up with a second rhyme for “beverage.”

Stuff I Almost Got Done

Yesterday I had a full day of almost doing things. I had a To Do list, and I almost did every item on it. One item was vacuuming the house. Back when we first got Doggy Dog, we vacuumed daily for the first – oh, two or three days. Then we gradually came to the realisation that vacuuming up after the dual-coated perpetual shedding machine was an exercise in futility and resolved instead to live like savages wallowing in his dander for the rest of our days. That arrangement worked out fine until Baby Dog was about to make her appearance, and it occurred to us that one day the floor was going to be her thoroughfare, and it would be incumbent upon us to keep her path clear of the tumbling tumblefurs. We resolved that, once the baby was born, we would once again become decent upstanding clean-living people and vacuum up the fur on a daily basis. I think she was probably about three weeks old before we even had time to remember we’d made that ridiculous vow. She lives on bassinettes and swings and bouncy chairs! She’s never touched the floor! Doesn’t even know it exists! When she crawls, that’s when we start vacuuming again. But still. One can only let the clumps of fur grow so large – say, to the size of a moderate boulder – before they begin to intrude on one’s consciousness on a regular basis, and one is forced to note “vacuum house” on the to-do list scrawled on the Magna Doodle (not a baby toy – we’ve used this to write “to do” notes on for years). However – when I wrote “vacuum floor” on the Magna Doodle, it was in the cool of the evening, with the great yellow horror banished and forgotten. The next afternoon, looking at the Magna Doodle, I was lolling somnolently on the couch, shielded from the rays of the cancer ball but still keenly feeling its pernicious effects inside the walls of our EZ Bake house. “Could I not,” thought I, “have written down a chore not requiring motion?” In the end, I took a cue from Mama Dog’s mother who, during her recent stays here, demonstrated her strong faith in the dust mop over the vacuum cleaner. I reasoned that there was less activity involved in pulling the mop from the closet than in pulling out and then assembling the vacuum, and I was right. I barely had to achieve consciousness to shuffle about the house like Chief Broom, wrangling the bigger clumps from under the tables and chairs, in the corners, and by the most heavily doggy-trafficked areas. It was, by any objective standard, a piss-poor job, but when compared with the week or two of utter neglect that had preceded it, it was a Herculean feat. So scratch one off the Magna Doodle, sort of.

Another action item on the Magna Doodle was “tummy play.” This is an activity parents are supposed to do with their newborns to get them lifting their heads and strengthening their neck muscles. Mostly, it boils down to placing the baby on her stomach on a flat surface (or using an aid like a Boppy, getting down with her at eye level, talking and making faces and generally encouraging her to look around and move her head and neck as much as possible. The books tell you to start this activity fairly early on, but it’s been a bit difficult with Baby Dog, who has tended to start crying as soon as we set her down on her stomach and not stop until she’s been rolled over onto her comfortable, familiar back position. She so disliked it the first couple times that we tried it that we decided to wait until she was a little bigger and stronger before trying again. So it was for several weeks. When we were down in Santa Barbara, though, we noticed that she was growing less resistant to being on her stomach. She fell asleep lying face-down on my shoulder, for instance, and on Mama Dog’s chest. We decided to try her out with tummy play out on a blanket on the lawn, and it worked pretty well. Since getting home, “Tummy Play Every Day” has been a standing order on the Magna Doodle. We had a pretty good streak going until yesterday when somehow, the day got away with us. I did ALMOST get it done, though. At one point I was rocking Baby Dog and set her on my shoulder for one reason or another. She immediately arched her neck back and grunted at me. I googooed at her and let her thrust her head back repeatedly for a while until she was ready to move on to other things. It wasn’t exactly tummy play, but it was close. So I almost got that done.

Lastly, the big job – finally assembling the shelving units we got before going to SB and setting them up in the former crap room. I almost got this done too. In the sense of, I thought about it and almost did it but then checked my hit counter instead.

Mama Dog did much better on her share of the Magna Doodle list, and one of her successfully completed action items spurred me to do something that wasn’t even on my list yet. She compiled the guest list for her birthday party/Baby Dog’s Baek-il. Enthusiastic to do a chore that involved sitting on my ass in front of the computer, I put together the Evite for the event, and managed to get the thing out before suppertime. Maybe it’s gauche to mention such an event in a public forum that might be read by people who haven’t been invited. A disclaimer, then. If you didn’t receive your Evite, you probably fall into one or more of four broad categories: those we don’t know, those who live too far away to be likely attendees, those who slipped our mind by regrettable oversight, and those whose fucking guts we hate. I’m guessing everybody knows which one they are, and hey – we’ll see you there!

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Aaahrrr, Stack High the Coal, Me Hearties! We've a King's Ransom to Plunder and Chicken in a Tasty Marinade!

Yesterday was a miserable hot day, with that great yellow horror relentlessly beaming down its killer rays without the slightest wisp of cumulus to come to the aid of a stricken victim in, say, my back yard. Tragically, despite my best efforts at pointing out the uniformly ruinous effects of exposure to natural light, Mama Dog continues to think that such shitty weather constitutes a “beautiful day.” Consequently, it was decreed that we would spend it out of doors, prey to perspiration, burns, blindness, and cancer. Thankfully, the option chosen was a barbecue, which meant at least I could retreat periodically to the safety of the house. It could have been worse; she could have thought of a picnic. As has been carefully documented by Peter Weir and others, not everybody returns from those damn things alive.

The Pirate family came over, Mama, Papa, and Baby Pirate, plus Mama Pirate’s mother, who will this week be attending Burning Man with her son-in-law, and I’ll give you a minute or two to ponder that concept? Done? No? Okay, I’m still processing too. I mean, obviously, I wouldn’t go to Burning Man unless I could bring some sort of air-conditioned windowless environment with me – a casino, maybe! – but if I did, the thought of going with any mother-in-law I’ve ever had rather beggars the imagination. Mama Pirate, whose eagerness for a week in the desert with a bunch of damn hippies is only slightly greater than my own will instead be going to Seattle for Bumbershoot, mostly because Baby Pirate is keen to see Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.

But anyway. I cleaned the cobwebs off the old Weber, pulled out the half-used coals, dumped the ashes from our last BBQ, whenever that was (June?), scraped the grill cleanish, and loaded up the chimney starter. That’s probably not our exact starter, which we got about eight years ago at whatever the Long’s Drugs at 51st and Broadway used to be (Payless back then? I forget….), but it’s the same basic design. For some reason, I keep forgetting that we have this starter and grab for the lighter fluid first. It’s so much easier using the starter. The design is so simple yet so effective that I really hope somebody won a Nobel for it at some point. The Nobel Award in Barbecue Accessories, I guess. Anyway.

Mama Dog made chicken with a marinade composed of saffron, red hot chilli peppers, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, olive oil, and paprika. Mighty good in a pita. Because Papa Pirate is, like most pirates, a vegetarian, they brought Boca burgers. I was offered one but declined because I’m still mad at Florida.

After the grub, we took pictures of Babies Dog and Pirate together (again, if anybody wants to see these, email me and I’ll make them available), then played us some Scrabble. Initially, Mama Pirate’s mother played in a team with Mama Pirate, but she kept begging off to walk our dog or bounce our crying child. How splendid! I never would have thought to bring someone else’s mother over to look after our critters.

Mama Dog won by a wide margin, but we all did well, with a cumulative score over 600. Two seven-letter words: Mama Dog’s very first set of letters spelled out “Tragedy” (which proved prophetic for the rest of us), and I much later managed to come up with “Display.” Then it was long about 8:30 and because we’re new parents, everybody was tired, so the Pirates packed up their salad bowls and their play mats and their mutant banana toys (don’t ask) and went home. We started Baby Dog on the long road to Slumberland. Last two nights she went to sleep without a swaddle and we thought perhaps we’d turned a corner. Apparently, it doesn’t happen all at once. Two steps forward, one step back.

Still and all…she’s sleeping now, and it’s time I had some breakfast.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

My Nipples Explode with Delight

Yesterday, an old friend of Mama Dog’s visited from Back East. Let’s call her Baltimore, because I’m growing weary of the animal names. I’m not by any means certain that Baltimore (the city) is the place whence Baltimore (the person) was visiting, but since it is (by any definition known to California) a city from Back East, it will do as a fake name for the duration of this post.

So, Baltimore’s parents live in L.A., but she’s not planning to swing down that way this trip. Moreover, Baltimore says she hasn’t told the ‘rents where she’s staying or how to get hold of her because last time she made that error during a Bay Area trip, they drove up here and expected Baltimore to spend several days of her brief vacation in their company. The big problem, as Baltimore put it is, “They hate everything I love: San Francisco, hippies, Democrats. What am I supposed to do, hang around playing cards with them in their hotel room for three days?”

This put me in mind of my own parents’ upcoming visit. They’ll be coming in a couple of weeks to meet their newest granddaughter for the first time. Happily, though they’ve exhibited a certain degree of bafflement regarding many of my lifestyle choices over the past 20 years, they’ve never turned it into a big culture war thing, nor indeed ever expressed disappointment in anything I’ve done. That’s pretty good, I think, because – frankly – a lot of the things I did between 1984 and 1998 were pretty disappointing, even to me.

The closest thing I can recollect to a moment of that sort of generational/cultural clash betwixt my forebears and me came one night the week Mama Dog and I wed. We spent that week showing our collected sets of parents around various of our favourite Bay Area restaurants. One night we visited the Blue Restaurant in the Castro (lukewarm and slightly condescending review here, surprisingly detailed and accurate description of the bathroom here – but you have to scroll down a bit to find the entry for Blue). After dinner we wandered around Castro Street for a while and at one point I found myself alone with my dad, waiting out on the street while everyone else looked in at a tchotchke shop of some sort (if memory serves – and its been nigh on five years, so don’t place any bets – Mama Dog was looking at lunchboxes). We had one of those hands-behind-the-back-not-saying-much-of-anything moments to which white people from Canada seem particularly prone when I suddenly noticed that we were standing in front of a storefront display snappily decked out with an array of elaborate gay sex toys. Just then I noticed my dad noticing me notice this – and further, I noticed him noticing what it was I had just noticed. He looked at me and probably noticed that because I had noticed all the noticing, the moment was growing even more awkward. Gosh yes! Pardon me while I ponder what might make a diffident straight white man from Canada feel more awkward than standing with his father in front of a window full of elaborate gay sex toys. Okay – yes – I’ve got one – that would be if the diffident straight white man from Canada was for some reason posing in the window and demonstrating the use of the sex toys when he happened to look out and see his father window-shopping. But short of that, it was pretty awkward.

So – because it was clearly incumbent on me to do something to arrest this downward spiral of awkwardness, I grasped for a deadpan comment and the best I could come up with was, “Uh…I don’t think there’s really an equivalent neighbourhood in Edmonton.” And because my father has always been my model for the laconic deadpan reply, he gave a long, slow, nod, and said, “Nnnnnnnnnnnno.”

So what, I wonder, will Baby Dog be doing ten or fifteen or twenty years hence to if not shock, disappoint, or enrage me, then at least cause me to re-examine any fundamental assumptions about life that I don’t currently realise I hold? Will she join the Bush Youth? Surely there will be a Bush Youth by then. Will she take up a sport of some sort? Will she move to L.A.? I shudder to think. But I’m braced. I really am.

Miscellaneous other matters: this is kind of a weird story.

Forgot to mention - when she saw the doctor yesterday, Baby Dog weighed in at 13 pounds 6 ounces. This is up from 12 pounds 11 ounces a week and a half ago which means the calculation we made after that measurement is correct; she's gaining a little more than an ounce a day.

No papers this time. Only a couple of pages of Nana. This could take a while. So far it’s all about a group of rich nobs waiting for a variety show of some sort to begin, and the slimy theatrical producer lording over them his new discovery, the titular Nana. Little time to read. Kind of a busy day. Sick baby, visitor from out of town, did some laundry.

And lastly – an embarrassing yet somehow poignant milestone: today I threw out a pair of underwear and belatedly realised that it represented something of a final turning point. This underwear, which had gone unnoticed in the back of a drawer for several years only to return to active duty sometime in the last year, finally gave up the ghost in the last laundry cycle and had to be humanely dispatched. They were, I now realise, the last piece of pre-Mama Dog clothing still in my possession – which is to say they were the last article of clothing I had which she would never have let me buy. So fare-thee-well, raggedy-ass gauche-green Hanes-three-pack briefs. Diggity Dog is dead. Long live Papa Dog.

Friday, August 27, 2004

I Get Blown By Orrin Hatch

Nothing really irritated me yesterday, which is nice enough for me but bad for the blog, because I’m starting to realise that my surest source of writing inspiration is bad customer service. I got a little annoyed when the dog kept standing in front of the stereo and blocking the remote signal, but I can’t see building an entire post around that. Well, maybe.

Anyway, I don’t have to resort to that today, because we already had some excitement this morning. Our first parental health care crisis. Baby Dog slept soundly after a midnight swaddle, had a good 6 a.m. feeding and then snoozed until after 9:30. When I took her to the changing pad for her morning nappy inspection, she cried rather more than usual and then barfed up a small lake of yellowish by-product. We cleaned her up and took a look at what Mr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care book had to say on the subject.* Mostly, it seemed to say it was no big deal, but then again mostly it seemed to be talking about spit-up which this certainly wasn’t. We lay her on the bed to see if that might calm her down a bit and it did, but maybe a little too much. She seemed listless and pale. Her head was cool and a tad clammy. It was worrisome enough that we called our paediatrician’s advice nurse, who said to take the temperature and call back if it was over 100 or if she barfed again. It was a struggle to get a reading…babies seem to hate thermometers even under the arm…but it eventually showed us a temperature of 96. Didn’t seem like that could be exactly right, but at least it wasn’t a fever. Also she was crying, which was a good sign; the listlessness was kind of freaky. Then she barfed up again. Not as much this time; we thought maybe it was just a sort of aftershock. She was crying some more, so we figured maybe she was hungry. Mama Dog sat down to feed her and -- whup, there went barf number three. I called the advice nurse back, and she said to come in and see the paediatrician. Okey doke. We had barf number four on the changing pad getting her ready to go.

Happily, Baby Doc didn’t find much wrong. The nurse took Baby Dog's temperature with some sort of gizmo that goes in the ear, and it was a solid 98. Baby Doc checked heart and lung sound, examined the abdomen for masses, and so on, and found nothing out of the ordinary. She said that flu was a possibility, and that we should watch for further vomiting, diarrhoea, or signs of dehydration. Worst case scenario is pyloric stenosis, a grody intestinal problem that I’ll give you a link for rather than attempt to describe. Apparently this is more common in boys, but it remains a possibility and would require surgery to correct. Most likely, though, it’s just “one of those things” and might not recur at all. We have to wait and see. I will, of course, keep you posted.

Newspaper Update: I’m back in the saddle again. Finished the August 4 paper, which means I went through three days’ worth yesterday. At that rate, I could actually catch up before I finish my leave.

I guess that’s it – oh, wait, right, the title. Shamefully, I must admit that I was not in fact blown by Orrin Hatch, nor have I ever even met him. What happened is, yesterday somebody using the “next blog” button at the top of the Blogger interface came across my rant about the Post Office and liked it so much that he linked to it from his page. I got a bunch of hits that way. Well hell, let’s return the favour. Here’s his page. Now the thing is, while I’m sure that it’s the sterling quality of my puckish persiflage that made him link to my page, I’ll bet you anything that it was the dirty word in the title that caught his attention in the first place. Operating on that theory, I’ve decided to use saucy titles for a while and see if I get any further increases in hits. It’s just something I’m experimenting with, and I’m sure I’ll get bored with it quickly.

* “Crying is an illogical emotional response and should be firmly suppressed.”

Thursday, August 26, 2004

What Part of "I Want My Mail" Do You Not Understand, You Fucktard?

If I’ve given the impression thus far that I’m the only one round these parts possessed of neurotic obsessions, this is my big chance to note otherwise. Whenever we go on vacation, poor Mama Dog starts to manifest an almost pathological fear that the telltale signs of our absence will bring down marauding hordes upon our demesne. Again, not to give the wrong impression – I’m as concerned with our home security as much as the next lackadaisical urban dweller, but really, you’d think I was suggesting I leave the door open with a “RAID ME” billboard posted on the roof if I suggest that it’s not really necessary to put the mail and papers on hold when we’re just going to be out of town for two nights. Those are the two biggest culprits, obviously, piled up mail and newspapers. The newspaper issue has been a struggle since the early days of our relationship. As you might guess from my ongoing chronicle of catching up on papers (now almost a month behind, thanks; I don’t seem to be missing much, though…from what I’ve glanced at, the news has been so slow that the paper’s been running stories about some sporting event in Greece on the front page), I’m not too keen on putting the paper on hold when we go away. We’ve managed to reach a compromise there, always having a friend pick the paper up while we’re away. For reasons I’m not entirely clear on, Mama Dog always balks at having someone pick up the mail too, preferring instead to have the Post Office put it on hold while we’re away. This leaves me with that pained expression the Chief gets on his face when Max insists on using the cone of silence. Like the cone of silence, the USPS mail hold NEVER FUCKING WORKS. They don’t start the hold on time. They don’t resume delivery on time. They never start it at all. One time, we came home after a brief vacation to find that mail had been delivered throughout our absence only to be suspended on the day we got back. Lovely. Last time, they managed to get the hold dates more or less right, but then couldn’t find our mail when we went to the Post Office to pick it up. The clerk told us that it must be out with our carrier for delivery. We were pretty sure that our carrier had already done our street, so we drove around the neighbourhood until we tracked him down. When we told him what the clerk had said, he shook his head disdainfully and said, “Those idiots,” and told us where to tell them to find the mail.

This time, against all reason, Mama Dog decided to try the mail hold again. To double-check that it would actually take effect, she had it start on Tuesday even though we were leaving on Wednesday. Our mail, of course, got delivered on Tuesday. We collared the carrier, who was a sub, and told him that the mail was supposed to be on hold. When we got home the night before last, there was a day’s worth of mail in the box (again, of course), but at least no overflowing pile. Yesterday, I went down to the Post Office to pick up the mail and make a complicated stamp transaction. The clerk went to look for the mail and, naturally, came back to tell me that it wasn’t there and was probably out with the carrier for delivery. That sounded vaguely familiar, but I had other fish to fry, so I went on with the transaction and left without my mail.

I got about twenty steps away before taking note of the uneasy feeling that I was getting screwed. I called Mama Dog and asked her what return date she’d given for the mail hold. “I didn’t give a return date,” she said, “I put it on hold indefinitely.” “Aha!” thinks I. “Why would the mailman suddenly resume an indefinite mail hold on the day I come to pick it up?” So back I marched, lucking out to the extent that there was only one person in line ahead of me at that point. I ended up getting a clerk who had seemed the competent one on duty; she had talked my previous clerk through the complicated stamp transaction and appeared to know the ins and outs. I explained the situation to her…I had just been told that my mail wasn’t there, but my wife had put it on indefinite hold, so how could that be. “What do you mean indefinite hold?” asks the clerk. Uh-oh. Speaking slowly and carefully, I said, “We didn’t know our return date, so my wife put the mail on hold indefinitely.” “Well,” snaps the clerk, “you have to have a date. It can’t be put on hold without a return date.”* At this point I sensed for the first time that I was going to be losing my temper in the near future, but I kept the keel even. “Nevertheless,” quoth I, “that’s what happened. This has happened to us before – ” She cut me off. “Sir, we checked and the mail’s not there. There’s only one place where it goes, and if it’s not there, there’s nothing we can do.” “The thing is – ” I began. “Let me finish!” she snapped. Let her finish? That was twice she had cut me off. She handed me a little card. “You can call this number in the morning to check before the carrier goes out.” “The thing is,” I resumed, “this has happened before. I’ve come here to pick up my mail, been told it was out with the carrier, and after going back and forth all afternoon, it turned out it had been here all along.” “Sir, I told you, we’ve checked and it’s not there. You can call that number in the morning if there’s any problem.” “There is a problem,” I said, still managing to keep the level below ballistic. “The problem is, I want my mail, I know it’s here, and I’m not leaving without it.”

I guess I finally made it clear that I was going to be pushed neither away nor around. Her little hatchet face snapped shut and she asked me to step aside to speak to the supervisor. I stepped aside and waited, suddenly realising that she still had my ID. Well, I’m definitely not leaving now, I thought. I waited for several minutes, listening to the sound of indistinct rummaging on the other side of the post office boxes. Presently, the door popped open and there was the supervisor with my ID in one hand and a box filled with my mail in the other. I took both, turned in the direction of the hatchet-faced clerk, and yelled across the length of the Post Office, “THANKS FOR MY MAIL!” “You’re welcome,” said the supervisor equably.

Other things: I’ve had a request that I explain what family leave is for those not familiar. This was one of the few health care-related triumphs of the last legitimate Presidential administration. The Family Medical Leave Act guarantees that covered employers (there are restrictions to do with the size of the business and so forth) must allow employees to take up to three months of unpaid leave with continued benefits to care for a newborn child, a sick or injured family member, or various other medical emergencies. No money, but they can’t fire me while I’m gone.

Even better, the state of California now offers Paid Family Leave. This took effect just before Baby Dog was born, so I rather lucked out. The EDD – the same agency that pays out Unemployment benefits – will pay out to FMLA-covered employees up to 55% of their base salary for six weeks. Not enough for anybody to live on but way better than the grand total of nothing offered by both states. I’m sure the Bush regime and the Schwarzenegger administration are busily at work figuring out how to do away with both of these programs, but hey, everybody, use ‘em while we got ‘em. (This last, incidentally, was a big reason I was anxious to get my mail; my EDD cheque was in it.)

Other other things: A milestone last night! Baby Dog went to sleep after nursing at 8:30, and slept for seven straight hours without ever requiring swaddling! We’re hoping this is a sign that we’re passing the colicky baby phase.

And lastly – I finally finished reading 5th Biz yesterday, thought it splendid, and am now kicking myself that I didn’t just buy a three-in-one volume of the whole Deptford Trilogy. Now I’ll have to track down The Manticore and World of Wonders separately. Before that, though, I’ve started in on Nana, because I’ve always heard that a little Zola is good for the soul but have never read any. Only a few pages in, and if the length of time it took me to get through the one slim Davies volume is any indication, I’ll be at it for a while.
* Mama Dog confirmed later that she had actually checked off a box on the official USPS hold form that said “Indefinite Hold.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

How Could I Forget?

Meant to mention but didn't - today is Baby Dog's two month birthday. Last Friday was eight weeks, but today's two months by calendar dates, so happy birthday Baby Dog!

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jig

Another six hours spent happily wedged between a car seat and a large furry mammal. Doggy Dog likes to see where the car's going and he can't do that from behind the driver's seat. The Roadie holds him in place well enough but gradually, bit by bit, he inches himself to the centre, where he can see between the seats and rest himself comfortably on my lap. Our hundred-pound lap dog. What fun! Baby Dog again slept through most of the trip and again stopped sleeping once cranky hour (officially, 7 p.m. til she falls asleep) arrived. She was awake for the final hour or so, crying for the last half hour, and full-on screaming before we even got to the Oaktown city limit. We couldn't really stop to do anything about it, and I can't exactly rock her in a locked car seat, so there was nothing for it but to let her scream. By the time we got home, she was in such a state that she continued to scream right through her diaper change. This is really unusual, the changing pad normally being her Happy Place. She didn't quiet down until she had a mouth full of boob, which might well be a lesson for all of us.

I got the car unloaded quickly, but there's much unpacking and reassembling of baby items still to be done. Seven more days worth of newspapers have been added to my burdens. At least I'm almost finished Fifth Business. Baby went to sleep quickly with a swaddling around eleven. She let us have six straight hours of sleep snug in our own bed, an almost obscene pleasure after a week in the baleful berth of bedevilment. The house is empty of food, so Mama Dog will soon be off to forage. Not sure what I'll be doing with myself, but I imagine unpacking will be involved.

Charles - yes, I had the same thought about the Scream/Madonna theft, that the figure behind it can only be some rich guy who's going to keep them in a sealed chamber behind his wine cellar until death. I don't know if you saw this, but the thieves' getaway was caught on film (LA times registration required to follow that link, but at least it's free). My first thought on seeing the photo was that they looked like henchmen on the Batman TV show capering away. Maybe the Riddler's henchmen. I can't find any good Batman thug/henchmen photos on the Internet, but here's what their bosses would look like. Funny you should mention Connery Bond. I don't know if you were aware of this, but in the first Bond movie, Dr. No, there's a moment when Bond is walking through Dr. No's lair and he goes past a painting on an easel. He stops and does a brief double-take, because the painting is Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington, stolen (in real life) the year before and, if I remember right, never seen again. So maybe this is all really the dark work of SPECTRE.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Dispatches from the Road, Part VI

Gran has been ecstatic to have a Li’l Puppy over which to fuss, we’ve enjoyed the visit, and Doggy Dog has been thrilled to have the run of a back yard the size of a dog park. Still and all, all things good or otherwise come to an end, and it’s time to head back home to Oaktown.

Last night’s dinner was at – and if you’re vegan, cover your eyes here – the Outback Steakhouse. If you’re not familiar, this is a chain restaurant of the sort that populates suburban America, notable for offering entrée portions larger than the annual intake of your average Rwandan village. I’d only ever heard of the place previously because it was mentioned in Dan Savage’s Skipping Towards Gomorrah. In this sprightly hands-on survey of the seven deadly sins, Savage chose Outback to represent Gluttony, and I did my best to follow his lead. My entrée was actually pretty small by Outback standards – the “Barbie Chook ’N Bacon,” which is really just a chicken breast on a bun with some bacon and cheese. It would fit comfortably into one corner of the 16-oz. steak that Gran somehow packed into her waifish under-five-foot frame. I would have been okay if I had bypassed dessert, but somehow we always have dessert when we go out with Mama Dog’s parents, and I ended up getting “Sydney’s Sinful Sundae,” though, as with the “Barbie Chook ’N Bacon,” I couldn’t bring myself to say the stupid name out loud. In the first case, I just pointed at the menu. In the second, I said, “I’ll have the sundae,” and let our exuberant server respond with the entire tawdry alliteration. Sadly, no matter how I ordered it, I was going to end up a groaning bloated mess by evening's end, and it's in exactly that condition that I was rolled home.

Here’s the thing, though, that puzzles me about the Outback: despite its Aussie theme park ambience, the place is nothing other than a celebration of American excess. Why name a shrine to gluttony after a desert wasteland untouched by ice cream?

Anyway. We’re off in a few hours. Tomorrow, I’ll write from home.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Dispatches from the Road, Part V

Another big dinner last night, this time a tri-tip barbecue. There was some postprandial discussion about the origin of tri-tip steak. One guest put forth the suggestion that tri-tip was actually invented here in Santa Barbara, and the native Santa Barbarians in general agreed. Having avoided steak most of my life and having only the dimmest awareness of the different cuts offered, I had no clue. Out of curiosity, though, I did a little looking on the Internet (where all True Facts can be discovered) and found this poorly typed page which, if you scroll down to point #4, includes the story of the fabled tri-tip discovery. Here, the town of Santa Maria claims tri-tip for its own and even includes a little jab at Santa Barbara for its tri-tippian ignorance. Having just reported what I found, I’ll stand back and let these two sainted ladies duke it out amongst themselves.

In other news…. Oh no! It’s gone!

Baby Dog continues to grow and develop, as per the instructions I’ve been issuing since shortly after we knew she was growing in the womb. Yesterday, we laid a blanket out on the lawn and tried tummy play for the first time in a while. This is something you’re supposed to do with newborns…lay them down on their tummies so they have to work to get their heads up if they want to see anything, thereby building up their neck muscles. Baby Dog has always grown unhappy very quickly when laying on her tummy, so we haven’t really tried it much. Yesterday she stuck with it for quite a while, making scrambly motions with arms and legs that would be very appropriate for crawling if her limbs were strong enough.

More significantly, she’s really started vocalising. Up until this week, her sounds have been restricted to ladylike grunts and sucky noises. We’ve definitely been hearing distinct consonant sounds out of her the last little while, to say nothing of oodles of vowels. I’ve been diligently saying “ah-goo” to her every day, and she’s been coming very close to repeating it back to me. I got an “ah-guh” out of her yesterday, and last night an isolated “goo.” Not quite ready for the Oxford Union Debating Society, but it’s only a matter of time.

Here’s something weird. I wanted to see whether or not this faversham was listed on Google, so I did a search for “Papa Dog’s Blog.” I got this result.* Now, first click on “cached,” and you’ll see a list of blogs with the word “dog” figuring prominently. This is a search result coming from an outfit called “blo.gs” which apparently sorts and categorises blogs. Straightforward enough. But now go back to the Google search and instead of clicking “cached,” click “blo.gs” and see what you get. Anybody want to tell me what’s up with that?

* Addendum, 9/14/04: This doesn't work anymore, partly because Google finally started listing Papa Dog and partly because I dropped off of blo.gs. At the time of this post, the "cached" result showed my actual blog entry - but if you clicked on the actual search result, it took you to an FBI page. Very strange.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Dispatches from the Road, Part IV

A flock of Pigeons came to dinner last night, and Gran made one of her customary mandu extravaganzas. Three generations of the Pigeon family were represented; Grand-père et Gand-mère Pigeon, Mama Pigeon, and Bébé Pigeon. It turns out that Bébé Pigeon, like Baby Dog, has a customary evening cranky hour, his generally lasting two hours, from 7 to 9. Sure enough, he went off like clockwork. Happily, Baby Dog chose to sleep through the evening more than she usually does, so we didn’t have to contend with both at once. We told Mama Pigeon about our success with swaddling, and next thing I knew I was swaddling an unfamiliar baby at his mother’s behest. My first swaddle for hire. Little Bébé Pigeon is a couple weeks younger than our Li’l Puppy and much smaller, so the job of mummification was nostalgically easy for me. I wrapped him up tight, shushed in his ear and, to sceptical Gand-mère’s astonishment, he was quiet in moments. Unfortunately, I handed him off before getting him fully asleep, and the air raid siren soon started up again, but I think they were quite taken with the results.

After the party, it occurred to me how much time I’d spent talking to Mama Pigeon about baby stuff. Not just the swaddling demonstration, but stuff like, “Oh, he takes the pacifier so much more easily than Baby Dog.” “Jesus,” I said to Mama Dog, “I’ve turned into a babydad. I just love talking about baby shit with all the other moms.” Weird but true. It’s hard to imagine a more all-consuming subject.

By the way - for those not conversant with swaddling, a little graphic demonstration. This is a sloppy-ass swaddle. The hospital blanket’s the same one we use, but that’s about the end of the similarity. This kid surely busted out seconds after the photo was taken. The little bulges at the top are his arms, which are supposed to be wedged securely at his sides. This is a self-defeating, incomplete swaddle. The arms aren’t even tucked in. Dumbasses. This is a good, professional-looking job. That kid’s not going anywhere any time soon. This looks good, but it’s some weird swaddling straightjacket technique with which I’m personally unfamiliar. And here’s what it looks like when I do it.

I think there was more I wanted to go on about, but breakfast beckons, so let's leave it til tomorrow.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Dispatches from the Road, Part III

Baby and Doggy Dog and I were on our own for a few hours yesterday whilst Gran took Mama Dog to visit Lotusland, a local attraction that stirred a lukewarm response in ol’ Papa Dog…maybe (just a guess) because said visit entailed wandering around endlessly under the blazing sun and staring at vegetation. I suppose if the vegetation did something, I might be interested but no, no triffids are included in the exhibit, so there’s not much marauding or mayhem to be observed in this particular garden.

We did all right by ourselves, though. Doggy Dog had settled down from his wayward behaviour of the day before, and Baby Dog had a bit of a breakthrough - she took formula from the bottle with no complaint. In what's apparently a common scenario, we tried her out on formula fairly early on and found she took it with no difficulty. Then we didn't try again for several weeks, and when we did, she gave the classic "what the hell is this crap?" response. Since Mama Dog wants to be able to leave the house occasionally, it became a matter of some consequence that we get Baby Dog used to the bottle again. I found yesterday that it's really just a matter of timing; get her sucking before she starts screaming. Worked just fine. Other than that, she spent most of the time either asleep or bobbing in the
Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium Bouncer that we got as a local replacement for the Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium Swing, which was too big to bring along this trip. The bouncer has proved a big success, every bit as comforting and captivating to the bairn’s attention as the swing. I think Fisher-Price and Pixar are really on to something with this fish thing. I don’t really know what the attraction is, but babies love fish – even babies way too small to have any idea what a fish is.

Which is a good enough segue to the “Baby Human” video, which we’ve watched over the last few days. Gran foisted this upon us shortly after arrival. I’m not generally much on video foisting, preferring to either be in on the selection myself or have an established selection-sharing system worked out, as is the case with Mama Dog and self. Still, the stated premise – what the beginning of life is like from the baby’s point of view – ties into current avenues of interest, and it seemed just the sort of thing to watch while Mama Dog was nursing. The video is actually a collection of three episodes from a series called The Human Baby, which was produced by the Discovery Channel Canada. Each episode concerns the development of particular characteristics over the first couple years of life. On Thursday we watched “To Walk” and “To Think,” and yesterday we watched “To Talk.” The latter, an overview of the development of linguistic skills, was the most interesting to me. Babies, it turns out, develop language skills in utero, to the extent that they’re born able to distinguish their native language from unfamiliar languages, simply by the differences in rhythm and cadence. For the first eight months or so, babies are able to clearly differentiate distinct phonemes from any spoken language, even a language they’ve never heard before. After eight months, they’ve done the work of assessing which sounds are relevant to the language they’re going to spend their lives speaking, and lose the ability to distinguish less relevant sounds. The example shown in experiment in “The Human Baby” had infants raised in English-speaking households listening to a tape of sounds unique to Hindi. Before eight months, they demonstrate an ability to distinguish two Hindi syllables that sound identical to a grown English speaker; after eight months, they lose the ability. I suppose another example would be the difficulty a Japanese speaker has in distinguishing between “l” and “r.”

By the end of the video, all the kids are speaking short sentences, which made us aware all over again of the long road ahead of Baby Dog. It’s easy to lose sight of the forest in favour of the trees when tending to an infant. I keep realising that I’m labouring under the obviously false impression that she’s always going to be this tiny, that she’s always going to need swaddling, that she’s always going to be pre-vocal. Well, we’re already taken aback by her remarkable growth rate these first two months, and are looking eagerly forward to the time when she’s able to communicate her needs to us by means other than the basic cry.

Bonus freaky trivia: According to a trivia page in the disc’s extras, the record for most babies born to one woman was set over a 40 year span (1725-1765) by some unnamed Russian peasant, who gave birth to 16 sets of twins, 7 sets of triplets, and 4 sets of quadruplets. Jesus! She must have started really young and kept going very late, like, say 12 to 52. Doesn’t say how many of the children survived to adulthood, but I’d guess a large percentage didn’t.

Oh yeah: newspaper/reading update: Haven't done this in a while. If memory serves, I bogged down in the newspapers around August 1, so I'm going to be thoroughly screwed by the time we get home. Haven't looked at the news at all since we left Oaktown, so I have no clue what's going on in the world. If Dumbya has conceded the election, I trust someone would let me know. Doing better in the book-readin'. Got a whole bunch of Fifth Business read while minding the Li'l Puppy yesterday. Well into Part 3 now.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Dispatches from the Road, Part II

I think we may have started turning a corner with the colicky baby. It might be a long turn, but at least it’s underway. We took Baby Dog to the paediatrician’s (I keep almost saying vet’s) for her almost-two-month check-up, and she was pronounced to be just as hale and hearty as she appears. Her weight’s at 12 pounds 11 ounces (exactly four pounds up from her birth weight) and she’s a strapping 24 inches tall, putting her in the 97th and 95th percentiles, respectively, for her age. This means nothing over the long term, but for right now it means she’s a big girl who’s either eating with zest and gusto or gorging because she’s under the impression there’s a famine on the horizon. We told the Baby Doc about our ongoing bedtime travails…the swaddling, the screaming, the rocking, the shushing. Mama Dog had read somewhere that you shouldn’t swaddle and infant after 60 days old, so we asked how much longer we should be doing it. Baby Doc said, “She’s so big I’m surprised you can do it now. Your technique must be really good.” Mixed emotions there; pride in a swaddle well done, but an underlying suspicion that what we call “the cruel swaddle” really is going to make Baby Dog grow up hating me without knowing why. Baby Doc went on to suggest that we perhaps try simplifying the bedtime procedure, maybe just swaddling her and setting her down to go to sleep by herself. The last few nights that’s what we’ve done. I’ve put on a firm but not too cruel swaddle, laid her down in the bassinette, and shushed from the sidelines until she got drowsy. Knock on wood, but it’s been working.

The surprising this is that, while Baby Dog’s become easier to manage, Doggy Dog has decided to become a handful. Yesterday I took him out in Gran’s backyard and with unerring precision, he trotted right up to the one spot of animal poop in the yard and gave it a good old neck roll. Fortunately it was just a little spot of poop from some smaller mammal, not a great honking slick of moose shit, but he was still way too disgusting to be allowed back in the house. We didn’t think to bring the doggie shampoo with us, so I grabbed some regular people shampoo from the bathroom and took him round to the hose. I had just finished rinsing the lather off him when I looked at the label on the bottle and saw that it was “volumizing shampoo.” James dandy there. Nothing an Akita needs like extra volume.

Then last night he took it upon himself to keep Gran’s backyard safe for democracy. This entailed bolting out after a raccoon and cornering it under the back porch. He somehow lost his collar along the way, making it next to impossible for Mama Dog to rein him in, and causing much commotion and to-do as the entire household strove to pry him loose. He came out of the affair with nothing to show but some scratches on his muzzle because raccoons are ferocious scrappers and it’s not a good idea to stick your face into the space where you’ve cornered one. Live and learn, I suppose, but those goddamn outside agitator raccoons will sure be steering clear at least until tonight.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Dispatches from the Road, Part I

The question since before Baby Dog even arrived on the scene has been: “How will we ever get anywhere with both the baby and the dog in the car?” This is not as simple a question as it seems on the surface, and certainly not as simple as it was when I was a pup. Back then, in a time we called the sixties, children were pretty much stuffed into whatever space was available in the station wagon. In the wheel well, strapped to the roof, whatever. Back then safety was an abstract concept like, say, democracy; something that people were vaguely in favour of if asked, but didn’t give much thought to practising on a day-to-day basis. Today, it’s the law. (Safety, not democracy.) I’m sure Baby Dog would be perfectly content in an apple crate lined with newspaper balanced on my knee on the passenger side, but no. The law says she has to be in a safety-approved infant car seat, in the back seat, facing to the rear. Moreover, the California Highway Patrol (starring Erik Estrada) recommends that she should be in the centre seat in the back, that happy niche known delicately far and wide as “ridin’ bitch.” But tell me: if you also want to bring the hundred-pound dog along for the ride and want to practice safety to the extent of not putting him in a position where he’s liable to turn around three times and curl up on baby’s face, how’s that going to work? Mama Dog was even driven to the extremity of considering becoming one of Those People and getting a suv, but thankfully that didn’t prove necessary.

Step one was the acquisition of a canine restraint system. We bought a doohickey called the Ruff Rider Roadie Dog Car Restraint Seatbelt. Word of warning: if you get one of these things, before you do anything else you should take the enclosed instructional video, put it on a raft on the nearest body of water, douse it in kerosene, and give it a proper Viking funeral. The video very carefully and clearly describes the use of a canine restraint system, but repeated viewings have failed to demonstrate any relation between the product shown in the video and the product that comes in the same box as the video. Better to take your dog down to the pet store where you buy the Roadie and have the fine folks there show you how to use it.

Step two was mustering the will to ignore the instructions of Jon and Ponch and put Baby Dog’s seat on the passenger side in the back, rather than the middle. The reason they specify the middle, as I understand it, is to protect baby from side impact airbags, which can seriously damage those not of full adult size. Since we don’t have side impact airbags, all we’re risking additionally by moving her is injury from, oh, a side impact.

Step three was finding a volunteer to ride bitch between Baby Dog and Doggy Dog just in case the Roadie has less than the advertised level of effectiveness. Hi there. Papa Dog reporting for duty, ma’am.

We had lots of good intentions of doing trial runs to see how the whole thing worked before putting it to practical use. In fact, we did take Doggy Dog out using the Roadie a few times, enough to satisfy us that it seemed to sort of work; but we never did try it with both critters in the back seat. So yesterday at the crack of 1 p.m., we set out with some trepidation, braced for the most hair-raising and stressful journey of our adult lives.

It turned out to be maybe the most peaceful drive to Santa Barbara we’ve ever had. We never ran into a bottleneck – hey, San Jose, good on ya with those two extra lanes; Doggy Dog remained obediently in his spot (though I did have to keep telling him to lie down so Mama Dog could see if we were in danger of a side impact when changing lanes); and Baby Dog slept pretty much the entire way, waking only in the last leg around Pismo Beach or so at the onset of her regularly scheduled cranky hour.

My one word of advice for those planning to repeat this experiment themselves: if you’re the one ridin’ bitch, don’t bother to shower before you leave. Much as I love my dog, I can’t deny that spending an afternoon next to him left me feeling about as filthy as I have in my entire life, alcoholic blackouts not excluded.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Avast, Outfoxed, and We're on Our Way Soon

I have to spend the morning packing and then we’re on the road to Santa Barbara, so I don’t have time to do much in the way of favershamming today. After relentlessly posting since day one, the week out of town might finally make my “A Thing Wherein I Sometimes Remember to Write Some Stuff” tag line accurate.

Last night, we had the Pirate family over for supper – they know who they are but I remain doggedly anonymous herein, and if we’re going to have cutesy stupid code names then, damn it, so is everyone who makes a cameo. Mama Dog made quiche; Baby Dog obligingly slept for two hours just before company arrived and then woke up crying the minute food was on the table; and Baby Pirate tried out the Fisher Price Aquarium swim and favoured it with gleeful screeching approbation. Ice cream and movie followed, with little girls remaining mostly quiescent, which is good because the movie was all talk. It’s Outfoxed, a scathing exposé of the most scurrilous channel on basic cable, the unfair and unbalanced Fox “News” Channel, and if you haven’t seen this documentary then you really ought to. It’s playing at theatres in the Bay Area, but if you don’t live here or don’t want to leave the house (kamerad!), you can do like I did and order a copy straight from the producer. Oh - and don't be put off by the fact that the video and audio are out of synch at the start. It's corrected right after the opening credits, and maybe they'll get around to fixing it in later printings. For the first few minutes, just watch people's eyes as they speak. It's less freaky that way.

Maybe I'll do more when we’re in SB, who knows. Now, for some reason I feel compelled to say “Seacrest out,” but I think I’ll skip it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Stupid-Ass Pizza Phone Call

Either I’m just getting older and crankier or retail customer service is getting dumber and dumber. Last night I had perhaps the stupidest attempted pizza order in the history of western civilisation. It went like this (names and addresses changed to protect guilty and innocent alike):

(Ring, ring.)
Pizza: Simpelle’s Pizza.
Me: Hi, I want to order a pizza for delivery.
Pizza: (Unintelligible) delivery.
Me: Excuse me? Could you say that again, please?
Pizza: Yes, we do deliver.
Me: Uh…okay. I want to order a pizza for delivery.
Pizza: What’s your address?
Me: 3828….
Pizza: Three…..eight…two…eight…
Me: Shannon Street, that’s S- H – A ….
Pizza: Wait…three…eight…two…
(Really long pause, while I wait for her to say “eight.”)
(Couple more seconds as it dawns on me that she’s not going to say it.)
Me: 3828.
Pizza: Three…eight…two…eight….
Me: Shannon-
Pizza: Three…eight..two..eight….
Me: Shannon Street. S – H – A – N – N – O – N.
Pizza: Three...eight…two…eight…okay, what kind of street?
Me: Sha- You know, never mind. Good-bye.

It was just getting too hard to suspend disbelief that this transaction would ultimately result in a delivered pizza.

Monday, August 16, 2004

American Boxes (and That's It)

It doesn’t happen often, but today we ended up having to go to the big boxes to get some crap that apparently doesn’t come cheaper anywhere else. The boxes round here are all in Emeryville, because Berkeley keeps chain stores outside the city limits, like brothels (only I guess that’s a bad analogy, given recent news). We had two boxes to visit, and since they were kitty-corner to one another, we reckoned we’d park at one and walk over to the other, giving Baby Dog a little stroll in the sunshine…something I personally abhor, but which is one of the crosses I'm told I have to bear for parenthood. Anyway, I already knew this, but there’s nothing like crossing a vast field of asphalt formerly known as wetlands under the sweltering embrace of that murderous carcinogen known popularly as “a really nice day” to drive home the point: the big boxes hate pedestrians. Or more generally: California hates pedestrians. Or more generally still: American hates pedestrians. I guess I have to stop there, because having lived here for most of the last 20 years, I really can’t speak much for anyplace else. But specifically, the cunning minds behind the boxes, they hate pedestrians and design their emporia o’ plenty to be all but inaccessible to anyone who is not, like Rodney King, a motorist. Negotiating the way from one box to another by foot is a treacherous undertaking, involving as it does passage across exits meant only to be traversed by cars – and to the people piloting these cars, a pedestrian at the exit is about as foreseeable as a couple of gay married vegans driving an electric car with a “Keep Abortion Safe and Legal” bumper sticker through downtown Midland, TX (if in fact Midland has a downtown). When we finally got to Playthings Be We, our first stop, we were bemused to find that the sidewalk between the exit – the side we arrive at first – and the entrance was completely covered with oversized merchandise, rendering it completely impassable. Clearly, the thinking at work here was: “Why would anybody walk from the exit to the entrance? The parking lot’s that way.” The possibility that someone might ever arrive by foot never came up in that particular planning meeting. The underlying assumption seems to be that if you don’t drive a car, you’re either too poor or too insane to be a paying customer, so fuck off and good luck finding a bus stop, rube.

Still, we were there, and be damned if we were going to be thwarted in our mercantile ambitions by the spiritual descendants of Judge Doom. We got the Safety 1st Deluxe Roller Shade which will protect Baby Dog’s delicate dermis on our upcoming roadtrip to Santa Barbara. Then back we trundled to Home Despot, where the motto is, “If we can’t have the worst customer service in the world, then damn it, we’ll have the least.” We stumbled by ourselves across the shelving units I’m going to need to whip the Crap Room into shape, then we sent up a flare in hopes of attracting a Customer Service representative or, failing that, the merchant marine. We did eventually find a surly red-vested fellow who, when questioned on the whereabouts of a dolly with which to move the hundred-pound boxes, cheerily muttered “Mumble mumble out there mumble against mumble wall,” and went back to work inspecting the tile alignments on Aisle 3. By the time we’d scoured the lot for dollies (none against any walls, but I did manage to grab one from an outgoing customer in the parking lot) and hauled the works to the checkout area there was, of course, only one cash register open to serve the twenty or so people lined up with dollies full of unwieldy home improvement items, many of which I think were galvanized.

We came to what seemed to be the end of the line, but it stopped a foot or two away from a couple of carts laden (I think maybe by the Joad family) to the warehouse roof. We were looking at these carts, wondering aloud if they belonged to someone who might be planning someday to return to the line, when a fellow patron pointed us over past the abandoned carts to the last manned spot in the line and said, “Line’s here. This’s America.” “Meaning what?” I asked Mama Dog, “You don’t hold spaces in line in America?” “We’re rugged individualists,” she assured me. Shortly after that, a second checkout line opened, and instead of 20th in line we were suddenly fifth. Then a third opened, and we were promoted to head of the line. I don’t hail from these parts. I hail from a land where you get in a line and wait politely until you reach its head, through tornado, economic collapse, or terrorist attack. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt for the poor saps who were 9th or 19th in line. But hey – it so happened we were in the right place at the right time, and god damn it, this’s America.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Like All Right-Thinking People, I Hate Shaving, and What You Will

The thing with shaving is, you do it, you're done, and then before you know it, you have to do it again. It's worse than laundry because, theoretically at least, you don't really have to do laundry all that often. You could either buy enough clothes to make it an annual event or wear the same clothes over and over until they disintegrate. Like Gilligan and the Skipper. And the Professor, come to think of it. They always wore the same clothes, week in and week out, and somehow were never filth-encrusted and tattered. How is that? It always comes back to Gilligan, and it's always an enigma. But I guess I'm straying.

How is it that most guys make themselves shave each and every morning (or evening, or both) of their lives? Is it because they have to look good for their jobs? Are most guys news anchors or marines? I've never been able to remember to shave more than once every three days, but I've always had the kind of job where I could go a few days - or maybe week or so - without shaving, and nobody would care enough to give me any shit about it. Midway through the second week comes the point where you have to either shave it off or decide that it’s a beard and pretend it’s always been there. After that, there's no going back.

What happened lately was, I accidentally grew a beard back in April or May or so (using the mid-second-week method). It's coming out whiter and whiter these days, so now and then Mama Dog would make a reproving comment about the hoary whiskers. "I'll shave when we bring the baby home," I'd say, thinking that a commitment to a particular date (or, in this case, event) would buy me some breathing space. No, though. It turned out that the issue was in fact the anticipated birth-day photos. She didn't want me looking like Nick Nolte on a bender* in our first set of baby pictures. Understandable, I suppose, but by then my arbitrary beard-shaving date had become an established goal, and I refused to budge. Baby was born, we brought her home, and that afternoon I went out in the back yard with the shears and the clippers and the half-ton tonsorial backhoe ready to give myself a shave worthy of Mr. Todd of Fleet Street (whom I assume must have been a pretty good barber or they wouldn’t have made a musical about him). Off came the beard and, to hear Mama Dog's mama tell it, a good ten years of noticeable mileage.

That was June 28. I was pretty good through most of July, but this morning I happened to catch a glance of myself in a passing mirror and noticed that at some point the beard had apparently returned. Damn if I know how that happened. I’d been making mental notes to shave for weeks, but apparently nobody was giving them to me. I don't know what to do if I'm ever going to be clean shaven and make it stick. Rub my face with salt? Quicklime, maybe? I welcome all suggestions for home remedies.

In other matters...we developed the photo I mentioned two posts ago, and perhaps predictably the picture doesn't look exactly as I described it. For one thing, Baby Dog didn't have her fist up anymore by the time I snapped the shot. I'll probably get around to posting it and some other shots on Shutterfly eventually. If anybody wants to see them, email me.

Still at it with the papers. Just barely started August 1, so again I'm exactly two weeks behind. La lucha continúa!

*Granted, he's not bearded in that photo, but he still makes a fine cheap visual punchline.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Bowling (but not for Columbine) and Such Things

So, yeah: Only a little over a week into the Faversham and I am forced to admit that the "So, yeah" thing is making even me meshugga. And, in the immortal words of Hrundi V. Bakshi, "I am not your sugar!"

The Sport Where You Can Be Morbidly Obese and Still Considered an Athlete: Last night we went bowling. I know, I was surprised too. The occasion was a birthday party for a friend who, I don't know, maybe likes bowling or something. Last time I bowled was in 1991 at a drunken office party for a photo lab in Banff. The first round was supposed to be on the company's tab, but due to some miscommunication with the alley staff, they kept running the same tab all night. I got good and drunk for free and didn't even work for the photo lab in question. I feel a twinge of guilt thinking about it now, but back then I was still young(ish) and irresponsible and figured that in one way or another I was sticking it to the Man. Like, maybe I was theoretically supplementing the income of my friend who did work for the lab by drinking the drinks he would have bought me himself if only his stinking photo lab salary weren't so meagre. Or something like that. Before that, I think you'd have to go back to 1980 or so for my previous bowling experience. Factoring in my creaky old man's back, my expectations for bowling prowess were fairly low. As it happened, I won the "most erratic award." I bowled two strikes but also two zeroes, ending up with a score in the mid-70s and a solid fourth place finish (out of five). Yay me.

I think my avoidance of bowling, aside from the fact that it's technically a sport, can be summed up in two words: rented shoes. While bowling, I managed not to think about the generations of other feet that had gone before in my curiously stiff size tens. When I turned them in, though, I had to fight down a little arrhythmia when I saw the alley's stringent sanitary procedures: a little aerosol spritz in the heel area then back on the shelf. I think it'll be another 13 years or so before I try it again.

Treasure in the Crap Room: My major project in the basement continues apace, and on Friday my virtue was rewarded. While shifting boxes from two moves ago off a filing cabinet, I came across a money order for $17 sent to me by a friend in New Orleans in 1998. I don't know why she sent me the money, and I have even less idea why I never cashed the thing, but the Post Office says it's still perfectly cashable, so woo hoo, free money! I choose to think of this as my wages for cleaning up the Crap Room, though I think when I calculate my hourly rate I'll be forced to consider unionizing.

Still Reading: I finished Part 1 of Fifth Business. Slowed down with the newspapers. Only made it up to the Bay Area section for July 31. We go out of town Wednesday. Need some more hours in the day. How did I ever get anything done when I was going to a job? Maybe I didn't.

Friday, August 13, 2004

A Couple of Senses and Stuff Like That

Sight: So, yeah, I took a picture of Mama and Baby Dog this morning, but I have to admit that the whole thing was as staged and as phony as Dumbya on a mountain bike. Didn't start out that way, of course. We'd left the Li'l Puppy to doze between us after the 6 a.m. feeding, and when I got up to take the recycling out round about 9, I returned to the -- okay, I'm stuck saying it now -- heartwarming sight of the two ladies in my life in placid slumber. Then Mama Dog opened her eyes, caught me staring, and gave me a look like, "What're you starin' at, perv?" so I hastily said, "That's a very cute sight." "What?" she asked. "The two of you lying there asleep like that," riposted I. "Oh!" she exclaimed, "Take a picture!" It's a rule of new parenthood that any confirmed moments of cuteness must be photographically documented. I got the camera, turned back around, and saw Baby Dog, face contorted, little clenched fists waving, launching off into a little tiny ferment of sourceless dissatisfaction and Mama Dog, wide awake, striving to soothe and placate. "That's not actually cute anymore," I thought, but had the good sense not to say. We waited a few minutes and Baby Dog resumed a kind of fitful slumber. Mama Dog closed her eyes and pretended to sleep. I waited patiently, and when Baby Dog's aspect had returned to a reasonable facsimile, I snapped the shot. She was no longer plainly a-slumber. She still had one fist up, evoking Black Power, and her eyes were threatening to reopen; but I got the shot, and I suppose only I will really know that, as is so often the case in life and art, the lasting document will be only an earnestly reasonable facsimile of a perfect moment lost forever.

Smell: Last night I paused the DVD (we were watching the "Crosetti" episode of Homicide) and exclaimed, "The house smells of baby!" I don't know why I chose that moment to drop everything and officially note the baby smell. I'd been noticing it for days, particularly any time I sat in the rocker. Everything smells of baby. Mama Dog expressed puzzlement. She didn't notice any particular smell, but then she doesn't always notice the Doggy Dog smell either...and believe me, there's a Doggy Dog smell. You stop noticing a smell when you're surrounded by it day in and day out, if you ever noticed it at all. I suppose the place is suffused with our smell, too, but how would we ever know? I'm not sure what the baby smell is. The obvious candidate is the bag of dirty diapers in the baby room, but they don't really smell that much and are bombarded with weapons grade deodorisers anyway. Is it perhaps the smell of baby wipes? A lingering confusion of aloe and disinfectant? Or perhaps it's the product of the bustling cheese factory tirelessly at work in the folds of our well-fed bairn's blooming jowls. I don't know. It's not an unpleasant smell, but it's always there, waiting to catch me off guard with the reminder that, yes, it really did happen, we have a child.

(It could be, I suppose, olfactory hallucinations. I have those from time to time. I believe the technical term is parosmia. Apparently it can be an indicator of epilepsy from which, to the best of my knowledge, I do not suffer. In those cases, I think it's usually a smell of rot or other unpleasantness. When I "smell things," it tends to be things of a happier order. I'll smell fresh laundry when there is none around. Pencil shavings. Chocolate. Some weeks back, I was walking to work...this was back when I still worked...and I could swear I smelled salt on top of a soft boiled egg. This was particularly odd because I found it a very pleasant and comforting smell, despite the fact that I absolutely despise egg. I ate soft boiled eggs when I was a child, though, and I guess that's what I was being taken back to.)

Reading Update: Got quite a bit more of Fifth Business read, while rocking baby during the day and waiting to be certain she was asleep round past midnight. I'm continuing to enjoy it and recommend it to one and all.

Newspaper Update: Progress here, too. Finished July 29 and July 30. I feel like the little engine that just maybe perhaps possibly could.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

"So, Yeah," DVDs on the Dash, and Whatnot

So, yeah, somebody - Mama Dog, to be precise - finally asked me why I start every post with "So, yeah," and, in the time-honoured tradition of poets and juvenile delinquents everywhere, I boldly and forthrightly answered, "I'unno" (mumble, shuffle). In the first post, I did it as a means of suggesting that the reader is somehow entering a conversation (an incredibly one-sided one) already in progress. Then I thought maybe it could be my "thing," 'cause you need a "thing" in the rough-and-tumble game of blo- er, Favershamming. Now it's just habit, and if there's anything a careful reading of my previous post should tell you, there's not much to be done about that.

You know what name I've noticed isn't very popular for boys anymore? Gepetto.

Here's a story hot off the AP wire from July 28 (see? - there is a benefit to waiting a couple weeks and reading the thing thoroughly): a guy in Alaska driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee drifted over the double yellow line and crashed into an oncoming car, killing both its occupants. The driver was distracted, say prosecutors, because he was - wait for it - no, really, give it a second - WATCHING A MOVIE ON HIS DASHBOARD DVD PLAYER! Don't that beat putting makeup on in rush hour all hollow? Now I admit I'm a tad behind the times in matters such as automotive accessories (and also the hip lingo the kids are using these days, but that's a digression), but I had no idea there even were dashboard DVD players. Evidently, they're supposed to work only when the vehicle's in park, but can be (as in this case) overridden by the determined motorist who wants to - and I can't help but place emphasis here again - WATCH TV WHILE HE DRIVES! Now, God knows people are predisposed to do a lot of stupid things, which is why we have a Darwin Awards. (This guy is ineligible for the Darwins because he killed somebody else instead of himself, but I have confidence he'll get one someday.) But did it not occur to anybody on the crack DaimlerChrysler liability team that having a TV on the dashboard might constitute just the teensiest possible distraction while operating a motor vehicle? Calling Ralph Nader! Better use of your time right here, if you were looking for one!

Oh, yes. What added insult to fatality here is, the movie was Road Trip. Can you imagine having to tell the victims' family that their loved ones perished because some nimrod was just too engrossed in the hijinks of Tom Green to watch the road? But no, I don't suppose anyone would expect a guy watching TV while driving a Jeep to be watching anything by, say, Alain Resnais, and it would be small comfort to the survivors to know that the driver would have been playing closer attention to the road if the thing had been dubbed instead of subtitled.

Li'l puppy slept almost 8-1/2 hours last night, shattering her old record of 7. Can regular full-night sleeping be around the corner? I dare not speculate, lest I jinx.

Got out of the house a bit yesterday, while Mama Dog and Baby Dog took a road trip to far-off San Leandro. Went into Berkeley and saw The Manchurian Candidate, which seems blurrily timely after having been so absorbed by the Good Guys' convention and by the ongoing antics of the Bad Guys. Probably Jonathan Demme's best movie since Philadelphia, but really, he needs to stop doing remakes of good 60s movies, because they always pale in comparison.

Newspaper Update: As you can see from the above, I've been diligent. Finished July 27 and 28. Still making progress, maybe not fast enough, but hey - August, here we come!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Counter, The Crap Room, and So On

So, yeah, you may have noticed I added a counter to the bottom of this page. Jesus, how did I get here? From “I hate blogs, blogging, and bloggers” to caring enough to count my fucking hits in less than a week. The sad truth is it’s just more of the same old OCD. Mama Dog would be happy to tell you how I get every time we have a party. About an hour before start time, I have everything ready and nothing to do but get antsier and antsier. One minute after the appointed hour rolls around, I glare at the clock and say, “They’re late!” I can’t stop myself from going to the door and seeing if anybody’s coming up the street. I get really, really nuts…and yet she puts up with it. How lucky am I? If anything, it’s surprising it took me this long to get so obsessed with knowing how many people are looking at this page. Are they checking back more than once? What’s their IP address? Lunacy, but I can’t help it.

I would have preferred, of course, to keep this ugly business private by leaving the counter off the site. Unfortunately, that’s a service one must actually pay money for, so, as the dominant farmer said to the traveling scatophile, “Fuck that shit.”

More OCD: The latest hopeless project round these parts is one that’s been growing like a cancer on the Presidency since the day we moved into this house, and I’m pleased to report that I’ve made a modest amount of headway this week. I’ve been clearing out the northeast room of the basement. Some of you might know it as The Scary Room Where the Poker Table Spends Its Downtime, but we’ve been calling it The Crap Room, on account of that’s where I keep all my crap, and not just the good crap like the poker table. When we first moved into this house in summer 2001, the room was just the hasty repository for Stuff I Didn’t Know Where Else to Put. Over the years, that stuff has gained a thin layer of dust and a thick layer of Other Stuff. All was fine at first when it was just my stuff, but Mama Dog’s stuff gradually began to take up residence as other more reasonable locales reached their capacity. All was still fine until the day Mama Dog decided to go look for some of her stuff. That was when I learned that this room which I had thought of, if at all, as a charming recreation of my bachelor ways, was in fact A BIG PROBLEM. I don’t remember how many months ago that was, but a series of good intentions and empty resolutions followed while the crap divided and multiplied and began to chemically bond with the foundation. I probably could have let it go long enough that we’d eventually decide, kind of like the lawyer in Bartleby, that maybe it’d be easier just to buy a new house, but for the Family Medical Leave Act. As I’m now nearing the two-month anniversary of my leave-taking, it’s come to the attention of The Powers That Be (i.e., Mama Dog) that there are in fact many ways other than diaper changing that I could prove my worth around the house. So, The Crap Room. It’s taken three days of stolen moments when Baby Dog is either asleep or otherwise occupied, but I’ve managed to sort every piece of crap in that godforsaken wasteland. Of course, that’s just Phase I, and all it really consists of is dragging stuff into piles of like stuff. Quilts and rugs here. Luggage (why do we have so much luggage when we rarely go anywhere?) there. Games and things there. And mostly, ominously, my fifteen years’ worth of unsorted and unfiled papers over there in a teeming mountain in the garage. Phase II will be acquisition of shelving units on which to put all the crap and the design of a functional layout for the room. Phase III, or what I like to call “my life’s work,” will be the final culling and sorting of the fifteen years’ worth of papers. I’m sure you’ll hear all about it when it happens.

Newspaper Update (aka still more OCD): I’m chagrined to report that although I finished the July 26 paper, I only got through the front page section of July 27. It’s still technically more than one day’s worth of progress, but nowhere near the rate I need to be moving at if I’m going to catch up. We’ll be visiting Santa Barbara next week, and not only will I not be doing any catch-up, but even more papers will be piling up in my absence. A lesser being would despair. Or maybe recycle.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Shakin' the Baby, the Rest of Conrack &c

So, yeah, I used to read stories in the newspaper about babies getting shaken or beaten to death by their violent lowlife fathers and think “What kind of a fucked up human being could do that to a child?” There’s one thing that parenthood quickly teaches you: we’re all the kind of fucked up human being who could do that to a child. I would defy Mohandas K. Gandhi to hold a screaming baby who’s been fed and burped and diapered and coddled; who’s been lulled to sleep repeatedly and keeps on waking to take up once more the cause of screaming for the sake of screaming; I would defy the Mahatma to hold that baby and rock it gently while it screeches and squirms and struggles, and to not once think of tossing it out the window. The window across the room. The one behind the coffee table, where there’s that narrow space between the north wall and the neighbours’ garage. Not that I have any particular baby or any particular window in mind here, you understand. The unhappy truth is that such filicidal impulses are pretty much universal, and the difference between me and the crank-addled trailer denizen who stuffs his kid into one of the old fridges over t’ the crick* is just a little measure of patience; a veneer of perspective; a blessed thin patina of calm. Lucky, lucky little Baby Dog. It all puts me in mind of Chris Rock’s old routine about O.J.: “I’m not saying he should have done it. But I understand.”

We did get around to watching the end of Conrack yesterday, and (VAGUE SPOILERS) not only did I like it right up until the admirably large and easy-to-read closing credits (sure wish they still did it that way today), but it was also enough to make me somewhat revise my opinion of the underlying racial politics. There was an uncomfortable sense for much of the movie that it was about a white saviour come to rescue the poor black folks from their self-imposed ignince, but in the end it’s really not that at all. It’s just about a guy who makes a connection with some kids and while he can’t hope to really bring them up to speed on the education they’ve thus far lacked, he does manage to give them a little spark of curiosity about the world. The villain is quite clearly old-school institutionalised southern racism, not the mercilessly strict African-American principal, whose unyielding ways are eventually seen to be a different, though probably misguided, way of caring for children.

Fay Wray died? Who knew she was still alive?

Newspaper update: Just starting the front page for Monday, July 26. I know that doesn’t seem like much progress, but note that I got through more than one date during the day, which means I’m gaining ground. Also, the middle date was a Sunday paper, which here in the States is the biggest one of the week.

* Other than the crank, the trailer, the fridges, and the crick.

Monday, August 09, 2004

A Miscellany of Stuff Attempting to Disguise the Fact that I Don't Have Much on My Mind Today (and Like That)

So, yeah, I've finally started to hear from a few people who've been reading this Faversham, which is a bit of a relief. I was starting to feel like a crusty-looking guy babbling to himself in the park. Really, don't be shy about posting comments (you don't have to be a Blogger member to do so). And if you know anybody you think might enjoy this crap, feel free to send them the Earl. (I guess that would be the Earl of Faversham.)

Anyway, it's been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone, my home town. Yesterday was anomalous in that I spent it worrying that Baby Dog was sleeping too much instead of too little. The Fisher-Price Aquarium Swing has been working maybe a little too effectively. All was back to normal at 7 p.m., though when Cranky Time reared its regularly scheduled ugly head. When I spent the hour between midnight and one swaddling, rocking, and shushing her to sleep (only to have her wake and resume screaming the second her head touched the sheet), it seemed comfortingly like old times.

Doggy Dog (and if you have a better idea for what I should call the dog given the nomenclature herein, please let me know) has been getting short shrift, but seems to be coping well with his demotion from Centre of the Universe. He mostly gets his three walks a day...sometimes he'll miss one because I got too tired or busy or forgetful, in which case he can use the large grassy toilet beyond the back steps. One time round about 10 p.m., he stared at me for about ten minutes before I finally realised I hadn't given him his supper. We brush him even less than before and the foxtails have been a constant vexation. He's had several get embedded, and one formed a cyst a while back. We had the vet look at it, gave him some antibiotics and cold compresses. It went down but has never really gone away. We're mulling a return to the vets and of course worrying about cost should surgery be deemed necessary. Never did get around to buying that pet insurance.

Years ago, I met an African-American fellow in Seattle, and he talked about how the campus (UW, I suppose, though I don't really remember) was so overwhelmingly white that if he saw another black guy across the quad, he always felt obligated to give him The Nod. We've discovered that parenthood is kind of like that, only not because of any shortage of fellow members in our secret society. Here in "Lower Rockridge," the Land of the Stroller and Home of the Bjorn, one could quickly develop whiplash nodding and smiling at all the passing sling laden tot toters. Worse still, if sharing a line with a fellow spawner, one is expected not just to give The Nod but to make actual conversation. Typically, the main avenue of inquiry is regarding the number of weeks or months the bairn in question has thus far spent free of the womb. Is someone keeping a record of the answers? I'm not. If the aim is some sort of demographic analysis, we should really be writing these things down. Also de rigueur is some pleasantry regarding the perceived cuteness of said bairn. Often, this requires a comment that might be described in a Clintonian context as "legally accurate," or in more extreme cases an outright falsehood. Not applicable to our baby, of course. She's unspeakably gorgeous.

Last night we managed to watch all but the last 20 minutes or so of Conrack before Mama Dog ran out of steam. 1974, Martin Ritt. Jon Voight stars as Pat Conroy (who later perpetrated The Prince of Tides), rescuing little African-American kids in rural South Carolina (ca. 1969) from insitutionalised ignorance. The underlying racial politics seem a little suspect today, but I found the movie surprisingly entertaining, and Conrack's quest to give the kids a proper Hallowe'en actually made me feel a little thrill for a holiday I normally abhor. The last 20 minutes could still ruin it for me, but so far, a guarded thumbs up.

Reading Update: Finished a few more chapters of Fifth Business whilst rocking the Li'l Puppy, but I've still hardly made a dent. I continue to quite dig it, though.

Newspaper Update: A new feature wherein we'll monitor my progress catching up on my old stack of SF Chronicles. As of yesterday, I was midway through the Bay Area section from Saturday July 24. In My World, Google is getting ready to announce their IPO, and we're all waiting with baited breath for the oratorical heights to come in the Democratic convention.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

My Grandparents' Many Daughters and What Have You

So, yeah, yesterday was Saturday and that's the day when I make like ET and phone home. I've learned in recent weeks that one of the unanticipated consequences of having a child is that I'm suddenly hearing all this family lore that I'd missed out on until now either because people got tired of repeating it by the time I was born or because I wasn't yet interested in listening to it. In this instance, me mum (I'll resist the impulse to call her "Grandma Dog," but you can fill that in mentally if you like) was inspired by my mentioning that we've been letting Baby Dog sleep between us after the four a.m. feeding to recall that she and all six of her sisters slept with their parents as babies because they never had a crib. She went on to recall that she never had a room of her own until my Aunt Barbara moved out to get married, and in fact spent most of her childhood three to a room. The largest house my grandparents ever lived in had five bedrooms, but this being the Depression era, it was always necessary to take in a boarder to make ends meet. As one of my great-uncles was also living there, that meant my grandparents got one bedroom and their seven daughters had to split the other two.

Mama Dog and I have wondered about such things many the time, living in our hundred-year-old two bedroom house. How did big families get raised in these places? Answer: they crammed them in wherever. Also, one must remember that it wasn't generally considered necessary to have as much crap back then as we have now. Nobody had to make room for TV, stereo, computer, etc. Still, it's enough to make us feel like silly pampered types for thinking we'll need a bigger house if we ever have another child.

Bonus anecdote: I also learned for the first time that me mum's family at one time lived in the Gatineaus (if you're American or otherwise nonCanadian, see here to learn what a "Gatineau" is). I don't know how many of the daughters were born yet, but it must have been at least six of them since me mum, the second youngest, was among them. Anyway, this family of at least eight was all wedged into a two-room - get that, not "two bedroom," but "two-room" house in rural Quebec. As the story goes, a local lady came to help out, and when she arrived, my grandfather greeted her with customary jocularity. He showed her the tiny house overflowing with offspring, and said, "Well now, don't you think Mrs. Feunoir's pretty well fixed?" The no-nonsense lady replied, without batted eye, "I think Mrs. Feunoir's in a hell of a fix."

(If you're like me or Mama Dog, the punch line you anticipated was probably "I think Mrs. Feunoir needs to be fixed." I guess people in rural depression era Quebec just had a little more class than such as we.)

Addendum from last blog: yes, I know that a Senate match-up between Martin Luther King and Idi Amin would be pretty unlikely, given that both are dead (but not impossible; cf. Carnahan v. Ashcroft). Also, I know that Idi Amin was not an African American, or any other kind of American. I just though he made it funnier than O.J. Simpson, my second choice.

And from two posts ago: I forgot to mention that Mama Dog thought, when reading it, that Life of Pi should be made into a movie by Miyazaki. I can see that.

Reading update: haven't touched Fifth Business since last mentioned. Reading yesterday was restricted to trying to catch up on two weeks of piled up newspapers, a Sisyphean endeavour that I keep cheerfully believing will one day have an end.